Booking It! Broadway, Film and Recording Industry Go-To Vocal Coach Liz Caplan

By Adam Hetrick
and Michael Gioia
14 Feb 2014

Liz Caplan and Patina Miller

The Broadway musical landscape is so varied today. What are some of the best ways for singers to be prepared to compete in an industry that includes musicals like Rock of Ages, South Pacific, Sweeney Todd and Legally Blonde?
Caplan: Listening to all genres of music is so important. Traditional music theatre productions will always be around. They represent the infrastructure/cellular makeup of our musical education. But with the record industry existing only peripherally today, signing only tremendously money-making acts, Broadway is being pleasantly infiltrated with rock and pop writers whom we've grown up listening to, as well as writers on the charts right now. It's our job as teachers, coaches, performers to be aware of all sonic brands. Then we must make sure our instruments can handle the vocal demands being put on our muscles.

I would teach significantly different exercises for rock and pop shows to help the vocal muscles meet the demands than I would for traditional musicals. The larynx will be lower but flexible in the anchored position for rock and pop material. The breath has to be grounded and the base of the tongue has to be tamed. Liz Caplan Vocal Studios have apps that have specific exercises for all vocal genres and addresses issues that might come up on a regular basis.

Contemporary musical theatre is full of rangy power ballads. When auditioning for a piece that asks to show your range, where is the line between finding a song that is rangy, yet appropriate?
Caplan: I would always suggest that a student sing a song that sits best in their voice at that moment in time. What would be the use of challenging yourself in the middle of an audition? You want to feel polished and certain of what your voice and emotional center can produce. If you are the absolute perfect person for the show for which you are auditioning, keys can always be adjusted. The Actor's only responsibility is to show up at an audition prepared physically, mentally, emotionally and vocally.

How do you feel about riffing/vocal embellishments during an audition? Is it more impressive to show off your vocal tricks or your control/simplicity?
Caplan: I believe that simplicity is always best. Let the casting director hear who you really are in a stripped down "unplugged" performance. If the singer/actor has a clear emotional connection to the song and a riff or vocal embellishment is going to enhance the emotion, but not take away from the core piece and it's done with vocal dexterity, then riff away. Embellishments should be used only because you have more to say emotionally and have to let it go. However, if one is singing a Sondheim or Jason Robert Brown piece, I would highly recommend sticking to the score as indicated. There are composers who take offense to people re-interpreting their score. If they wanted more notes, they would have written more notes.