Transposition on Broadway

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beltingbaritone
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Transposition on Broadway#1
Posted: 3/8/09 at 9:31pm
Out of curiosity, how often do songs get transposed for Broadway actors? I'm listening to Diana DeGarmo sing "Once Upon a Time" and noticing it's not in the original key. I'm sure it happens all the time with celebrities, but what about Broadway regulars?
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re: Transposition on Broadway#2
Posted: 3/8/09 at 9:37pm
My understanding is that they cast people who have the ability to sing in the original key, but they will adjust it to the key that best suits them if they're going to be in for an extended period of time - for example they changed Fiyero's keys when Taye Diggs took on the role - though he certainly could have sung them in the original.
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re: Transposition on Broadway#2
Posted: 3/8/09 at 9:44pm
Elphie - I guess if he could have sung the original, they wouldn't have transposed it...
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re: Transposition on Broadway#3
Posted: 3/8/09 at 9:48pm
A lot of Raul's solos in COMPANY are higher than the originals, by as much as a perfect fourth IIRC.
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re: Transposition on Broadway#4
Posted: 3/8/09 at 9:51pm
Well Laura Bell Bundy could sing So Much Better in the original key during Legally Blonde. But after a while they had to lower it because she asked that it be lowered, which it was, or she wouldn't be able to renew her contract.
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re: Transposition on Broadway#5
Posted: 3/8/09 at 10:04pm
All capable broadway performers can perform in multiple keys - but every singer has a "sweet spot" so that one key might sound and feel better for their voice. Changing keys isn't about allowing the singer to sing it - but about making as tailored to them as possible.
Madame Morrible: "So you take the chicken, now it must be a white chicken. The corpse can be any color. And that is the spell for lost luggage!" - The Yellow Brick Road Not Taken
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re: Transposition on Broadway#6
Posted: 3/9/09 at 4:00am
Songs aren't always transposed down, either. A friend of mine who works for Avenue Q recently told me that at some point, "My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada" was raised for one of the actors playing Princeton/Rod. I don't know who the actor is/was or when this happened. Elphie3 is right: it's about tailoring it to the actor.
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re: Transposition on Broadway#7
Posted: 3/9/09 at 5:18am
"A lot of Raul's solos in COMPANY are higher than the originals, by as much as a perfect fourth IIRC."

They were? The originals are pretty high. Not super high, but pretty high. The title song goes up to an A for Robert. Was that transposed up? And doesn't Robert also have to hit an A (albeit briefly) in "Being Alive" in the original key? Aren't there a bunch of Fs in "Someone Is Waiting"? Were any of those songs transposed up by a fourth?
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re: Transposition on Broadway#8
Posted: 3/9/09 at 5:39am
I directed Thoroughly Moderen Millie in the Fall. Several numbers were in a different key than what was on the recording -- so there were changes there too.

I suppose what suprises me there is that I would have expected the score to reflect the original production...not the original intention.
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re: Transposition on Broadway#9
Posted: 3/9/09 at 6:03am
What is the story with the Ethel Merman Everything's coming up roses key?
"Rose in Gypsy was like going through therapy for me. Playing Rose helped me put a lot of emotions to bed. There was so much lacking in Rose and that's why she had to prove herself through her children. [interviewer]In ways that reminded you of your mom?[/interviewer]. Let's just say the role was very interesting for me. That one was the most interesting [I've ever played]" - Bernadette Peters (2018)
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re: Transposition on Broadway#10
Posted: 3/9/09 at 10:19am
Sierra Boggess's key for "Part of That World" is much higher than the original. In her interview on Broadway Chatterbox she' proud of "her key" and talks about it.
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re: Transposition on Broadway#11
Posted: 3/9/09 at 1:13pm
Since most scores are now loaded/printed by Music software, it is much easier to do transpositions very quickly.
I imagine after a show is "set", only a few stars could really have the keys changed (like Vanessa Williams for Kiss of the Spider Woman). Sometimes when a revival/revisal is getting freshly mounted, they are re-orchestrating the show anyway and can adapt the keys as needed.
The Doyle Sweeney Todd moved Mrs. Lovett's songs down (even though Patti had already performed in the original keys in the concerts); and from listening to the BWW video of "Guys and Dolls", Sky and Sarah's songs all sound lower to me - removing any sort of edge they had. It often rings as "untrue" for us purists who can just tell. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
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re: Transposition on Broadway#12
Posted: 3/9/09 at 1:46pm
Sierra sings "Part Of Your World" in G, a whole step (two half steps) higher than the original (if you are referring to the film).
That's not Waaay higher, but it takes the song up just enough to make it a little more of a challenge (vs. the original, which was within the reach of most good high-school freshmen singers) -- and also into a brighter key: F has a bit more of a sedate characteristic, and G is a little more penetrating.

I love it in G.
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re: Transposition on Broadway#13
Posted: 3/9/09 at 1:49pm
When I saw "Miss Saigon" in '97 or so, they had brought "If You Want To Die In Bed" down a step or two for the guy playing the Engineer at the time.
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re: Transposition on Broadway#14
Posted: 3/9/09 at 2:21pm
In "Everything's Coming Up Roses", Ethel Merman sings an A# instead of the written C# in the phrase "nothing's gonna stop us till we're through!". It does not mess up the harmony with the accompanying orchestra, but makes it easier for her to sing.

In the years following GYPSY when Ethel Merman toured and gave concerts with a large orchestra backing her, "Everything's Coming Up Roses" was transposed down significantly to enable her to get through her signature song successfully. Also, a noticeable vibrato crept into her singing as the years rolled by.
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re: Transposition on Broadway#15
Posted: 3/9/09 at 2:26pm
Lansbury did the A# too, didn't she?
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re: Transposition on Broadway#16
Posted: 3/9/09 at 2:36pm
I'm not sure about Lansbury. Not being happy with the CD of her production, I seldom if ever play it. And although I saw Lansbury both in London and NYC, I just don't remember whether she hit the C# or settled for the A#.
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re: Transposition on Broadway#17
Posted: 3/9/09 at 3:33pm
I THINK the revival for 110 in the Shade is in a lower key. Not sure why because Audra can certainly hit the original notes.
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re: Transposition on Broadway#18
Posted: 3/9/09 at 3:40pm
I just finished a production of Footloose and the keys were completely different than the OBCR
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re: Transposition on Broadway#19
Posted: 3/9/09 at 4:44pm
"Nicest Kids In Town" and "(It's) Hairspray" were both transposed down for Lance Bass while he was in Hairspray; not sure by how much. In my opinion, it took some of the excitement and oomph out of the songs.
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re: Transposition on Broadway#20
Posted: 3/9/09 at 4:49pm
wait, they transposed Mrs. Lovett's songs down for the Doyle revival? I thought the OBC was lower than the revival?
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re: Transposition on Broadway#21
Posted: 3/9/09 at 5:19pm
Justin Johnson and a lot of other Angels got there songs transposed to a different key than the original.
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re: Transposition on Broadway#22
Posted: 3/9/09 at 5:24pm
"What is the story with the Ethel Merman Everything's coming up roses key?"

This probably isn't what you're asking about, but aren't all of Rose's songs in lower keys in the published score than on the OBCR? The story as I've heard it a number of times (and this is what Kellow says) is that several months into the run, Merman burst a blood vessel in her throat. When she returned to the show, the songs were taken down and (though Kellow doesn't say this part) that's what was published.

Of course, some of the later Broadway Roses sang it lower than the published score. I believe that Lansbury took most of it a whole step down (though some parts were not a whole step down, and "Rose's Turn," which goes through a bunch of key changes, was all over the place in order to reduce the overall range as much as possible). Daly was mostly a half-step down from the published keys. I think Lavin sang it in Lansbury's keys.

Dolores Grey also sang in Lansbury's keys, and then in performance she'd sometimes opt for lower notes still.

I think that both Peters and LuPone sang in the published keys.


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re: Transposition on Broadway#23
Posted: 3/9/09 at 6:19pm
Listening to all the major cast recordings Ethel Merman's (at least for Coming up Roses) recording appears to be in a different key than the rest..the rest also sound slightly different. Patti and Daly sound like they are singing in the same key while Bernadette and Angela sound different from them all. I could be wrong though.
"Rose in Gypsy was like going through therapy for me. Playing Rose helped me put a lot of emotions to bed. There was so much lacking in Rose and that's why she had to prove herself through her children. [interviewer]In ways that reminded you of your mom?[/interviewer]. Let's just say the role was very interesting for me. That one was the most interesting [I've ever played]" - Bernadette Peters (2018)
Updated On: 3/9/09 at 06:19 PM
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re: Transposition on Broadway#24
Posted: 3/9/09 at 7:31pm
This is the first I have heard about the published score (which I have) being in different keys than the OBCR. I have neither a tuning fork, a piano, or perfect pitch so I cannot compare the OBCR or any of the other GYPSY recordings with the printed score. I gather, Nobodyhome, that you are saying that Merman's songs on the OBCR are in a higher key than any of the other Rose's songs in the subsequent cast recordings. All very interesting and confusing.
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