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How Rex Harrison saved my bacon September 29, 2005

Posted by Administrator in Drama, Personal.

Well, we had the opening, and I see that I am still not really recovered. We had two shows today, and I was a sweating wreck for both of them; and NOT out of nervousness. I simply do not have my energy back yet. The director pretty much ORDERED me home to bed at the end of the day. . .so it’s evident not only to me that more rest is in order here.

My songs went OK as far as that goes, knowing that I have a fairly problematic upper respiratory infection. The biggest problems came about from 1) being betrayed by my voice into cracking uncontrollably on occasion, particularly on long-held notes, and more troubling is 2) having to take HUGE, GASPING BREATHS with each measure. Microphones pick these up really well. . .and there is nothing to be done about it. The audience simply has to hear me gasp.

But, there IS a partial solution.

The gentleman up pictured above is Rex Harrison, a noted screen actor from the ’50s through the ’80s. He is pictured with his co-star -the incomparable Audrey Hepburn- from his likely most famous film, My Fair Lady.

Anyone who has watched Mr. Harrison at work recognizes the following: He is a very good dresser; he has excellent command and diction of the English language; he physically commands every scene he is in, but not in an overpowering fashion; and he speaks his way through all of his songs that he performs in musicals, most notably the abovementioned Lady and Dr. Doolittle.

WHY he does this is beyond me. I’ve always suspected that he would have been a fine singer if he’d had some training, but he always insisted on sing-speaking.

And here’s the thing, he does an absolutely awesome job of it. Watch him perform “Talk to the Animals” from Doolittle or “A Bachelor’s Life” from Lady and you know what I am talking about. While it might not be as pleasant aurally as listening to Sinatra, he still tells a helluva story with the songs he speaks; and in some ways makes them even better in the telling.

So, when presented with those occasional notes and stanzas that present too much of a challenge for me either due their complexity, my greenness or my current infirmity, I have the comforting example of Mr. Harrison, whom I can attempt to emulate but can never truly recreate.

Thank you, Sir Rex. I shall create a new verb tomorrow night, when I tell the director that we are “Rex-Harrisoning” my song for the real opening.

See also:

Crime of the Scene
Audition Update
Theater Teaching Parenting
Beauty Opens Tomorrow



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