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re: in defense of Michael Hayden (and Sally Murphy)
Posted by: Michael_Portantiere 10:39 pm EDT 04/06/21
In reply to: in defense of Michael Hayden (and Sally Murphy) - Chazwaza 02:16 pm EDT 04/06/21

Here's the honest truth of the situation, as I see it:

Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote Billy's CAROUSEL songs in a certain way, according to how they wanted them to be sung and the type of voice they wanted to sing them: a legit or semi-legit baritenor with great beauty of tone, great strength and power to use when necessary, and the ability to deliver thrilling, ringing high notes at the top of the staff and above the staff. If R&H didn't want that kind of sound, they would have written the songs very differently -- perhaps more along the lines of Curly's songs in OKLAHOMA!, which are far less demanding for the most part. And I'm sure they COULD have written the songs very differently for a much lighter voice with a much smaller range while still allowing the singer to communicate the many emotions and moods of the character -- but, again, that's not the approach they took.

The degree of tonal beauty in MIchael Hayden's singing voice is a matter of opinion, but I would say it's inarguable that his voice doesn't have much strength or power when required, and that his high register is very weak and strained, to say the least. So whatever he may have brought to the songs in terms of acting ability and good interpretive choices, he simply couldn't fulfill all of the musical/vocal requirements of the songs as written. That, I think, is a factual statement. So we're really just left with differences of opinion as to how much, if at all, it matters to various audience members (and recording listeners) that he couldn't fulfill those requirements, and whether or not whatever he did bring to the role and to the songs was enough to compensate and make for an overall satisfying performance.

P.S. Whenever people have said they were so happy with Hayden's acting in CAROUSEL that they didn't care about his shortcomings when he started to sing, I always ask rhetorically if wasn't reasonable to expect that the director and producers could have found someone, among all the candidates in the British and American musical theater, who could have BOTH acted the role very well AND sung it beautifully. And at that point, I usually mention several names including Brian d'Arcy James, who was in the CHORUS of the LCT production of CAROUSEL while Hayden was playing Billy.
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