Open Forum

Lead in a musical who can’t sing

  • 1.  Lead in a musical who can’t sing

    Posted 05-15-2018 09:45
    I need some advice. We are considering a young man for the role of Beast in Beauty and the Beast who is legally deaf and can't sing much of anything BUT he is an amazing actor and the best fit for the Beast. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I should handle the singing parts? Do I do a voice over by someone else? Do I have a different character sing it and slightly change lyrics? Do I have him speak it? I would love any suggestions. I am particularly concerned about the song If I Can't Love Her
    Lisa Singleterry
    Portland Christian Schools
    Elementary Music & Band Teacher
    High School Drama Director
    Masters of Arts in Teaching

  • 2.  RE: Lead in a musical who can't sing

    Posted 05-15-2018 09:59
    We did Beauty and the Beast in 2014, and it was an amazing experience.  Our best actor played Gaston, since it really is the more showy role.  The beast, since his costume generally obscures his face, needs to convey much of his frustration, his anger, and his longing through his voice and his body language.  The song, "If I Can't Love Her" is a climactic end to the act and poignantly expresses the angst of the beast, and I would hate to see you do it with a voice-over or with an off-key performance.  I wonder if you could get permission to cut it from the performance?  It is one of my favorite songs from the show, but the audience won't necessarily expect it since it is not in the movie.
    I love the fact that your strong actor has had to overcome challenges due to his deafness, and I'm sure that he will bring something unique and moving to the character.

    Janette Clark
    Drama Teacher
    Minneapolis KS

  • 3.  RE: Lead in a musical who can't sing

    Posted 05-15-2018 10:39
    Have you considered doing a non musical version of it? Timothy Mason has a great version we did years ago. If you are set for a musical I would move him to a character that can get away with character singing instead of the Beast. Or... perhaps something like what Deaf West did with Spring Awakening?

    Shira Schwartz
    Chandler Unified School District
    Chandler AZ

  • 4.  RE: Lead in a musical who can't sing

    Posted 05-16-2018 10:45
    I believe HUNCHBACK used a deaf actor signing while one of the gargoyles spoke and sang the lines. Just a thought

  • 5.  RE: Lead in a musical who can't sing

    Posted 05-15-2018 11:50
    Do consider working with the actor and perhaps an experienced ASL interpreter to "choreograph" a signed performance of the song with a singing actor standing in as his voice (ala Deaf West) or projected supertitles.  I think it would be moving for the audience, especially differently abled children to see him give voice to his character in a different way.  I also imagine it will be a poignant experience for the actor and allow him to celebrate his unique abilities.
    I want to see this performance!!

    Elana Kepner
    Theatre Instructor
    The Oakwood School
    Greenville NC

  • 6.  RE: Lead in a musical who can't sing

    Posted 05-15-2018 13:16
    Contact the people at OSF.  They do this all the time with Howie Seago.  Typically, an actor is cast as his voice.  Sometimes that person plays it as another character (in Cymbeline, he was the King Cymbeline and the actor who voiced the king's lines was the King's page, essentially) and sometimes it's just another actor on stage who says the lines/sings the song as if it were Howie himself doing it.  As I recall, when he played the Wolf in Into the Woods, they had his "voice" sing and do the lines, but the voice was not a character of it's own.

    Laura Steenson
    Theatre Director
    Reynolds High School
    Troutdale OR

  • 7.  RE: Lead in a musical who can't sing

    Posted 05-15-2018 15:26
    This is an excellent learning experience.

    Allow him to do the role and consider what was suggested in using an ASL interpreter or projection with subtitles. You can expand this to schools for the deaf in your area to come and see that their handicap really isn't one. That anyone can be anything that they want. Even a lead in a musical.

    Truly a fantastic opportunity to teach inclusion.

    Alfie Fought
    Production Manager
    PNC Arena
    Raleigh, NC

  • 8.  RE: Lead in a musical who can't sing

    Posted 05-16-2018 07:53
    What if you had the young man do the sign language for the lyrics while someone else does a singing "voiceover" from behind the scenes?   That way, he is still communicating the same lyrics, but in a different way...

    Melissa Mintzer
    Willow Street PA

  • 9.  RE: Lead in a musical who can’t sing

    Posted 05-16-2018 08:17
    I had a profoundly deaf student a few years ago. He was in our program for several years. Sometimes we had another performer standing beside him voice the role he was playing. Sometimes he would sign the part. Sometimes he would just dance.
    When we did Tommy, we cast four actors in the title role: Young Tommy, Adolescent Tommy, Adult Tommy, and  Deaf Tommy. It worked amazingly well.
    Having one actor play the Beast while another voices the part is a great idea.

    Billy Houck
    Theatre Teacher
    Fremont High School
    Sunnyvale, CA

  • 10.  RE: Lead in a musical who can't sing

    Posted 05-18-2018 11:34
    I wholeheartedly agree with others who suggest having the student sign while someone voices for him.  I did this with a profoundly deaf student who played the lead in TARTUFFE and was Iago in OTHELLO.  It was an amazing experience for both the student and the rest of the cast.  All the cast members learned to sign the last word or two of their lines so that the deaf student knew his cue.  The interpreter who spoke his lines stood off to the side.  I had the advantage of her being an equity actress as well as a certified interpreter.  The audiences' reactions were incredibly positive.  It actually deepened their connection to the character, I think,  and to the story.  You won't regret it.  On a side note, the student ended up going to school for theatre and is now a high school theatre teacher.  He was in one of my theatre classes because he needed the credit and I got him to audition after some nudging. At his audition, he signed a monologue while his interpreter spoke the lines.  He was so incredibly expressive and perceptive.  No one else came close.    He said he never thought that theatre was an option for him before.  I highly recommend giving the student the opportunity.  You won't regret it!

    Ron Parker
    Theatre Educator
    Appleton North High School
    Renaissance School for the Arts
    Appleton WI