I am getting ready for a first date, for the umpteenth time. How does this make me feel? Why don’t I just burst into a song and let you know!
This is how my stretch in our upcoming musical I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change begins. In this scene, there are no lines, but we go straight into singing. All the feelings that the scene is supposed to portray need to therefore come through in the song.
Now, acting is something that I have been doing for a long time. Even though experience has made me more confident in how to express a variety of different emotions, the process still isn’t easy. So what happens when you complicate things by putting in an additional element and try to express yourself (in this case solely) through singing?
Well, first of all singing makes the situation naturally a bit… let’s say absurd, because you don’t normally express yourself and your emotions through song. So in that sense being believable and realistic is not the easiest thing in the world, since you are grounding the scene on unrealistic behaviour.
Being natural while singing is tricky also because there are so many things to think about at the same time: breathing all the way down to your back and stomach, using your core muscles to support your voice but not using your neck muscles to strain it, forming words at the front of your mouth rather than at the back just to mention a few. Singing “correctly” is of course important, firstly because it is a lot nicer for the audience to listen to, but also because if you don’t, you can really hurt your voice.
However, when you concentrate on singing correctly and on the technicalities, you risk becoming incredibly boring to watch. Key thing that I have been trying to keep in mind is not to let the technicalities of singing get in the way of emotions; sure, certain things you need to get right, but if the emotion of what you are actually singing isn’t there, you are in trouble when it comes to musical theatre.
Important thing to keep in mind is that the lyrics of the song are like regular lines in a play. They are one of the main things that make my character who she is, so I have to really put the same thought into delivery that I would when acting without singing. Actually I very often practice getting the feelings of a song right by speaking the lyrics out loud.
So it is a matter of finding the balance between technique and emotions, the scale being tilted somewhat towards the emotional side. And the key for finding this balance is practice, more practice and then a little bit more practice. Once you know how to sing the song by heart, you can start thinking of what you are saying and what is the feeling behind each word and most importantly how do you make this feeling evident. Sometimes having your voice break during a song is a conscious choice, because that is what would happen to that character in that moment.
Pauliina Munukka has ridiculous facial expressions when she sings, but is trying to get over that since she will be singing in I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. Due to her controlling nature she has also taken over the position of producer for the musical.