What the Judges Criticized Colleen For …

Well, now that Colleen has been eliminated, and since I’ve seen some comments about Danielle’s latest performance claiming that she was out of tune (and I think I read that about Cassandra once in similar circumstances), I thought I might make an attempt to explain what the judges were criticizing Colleen constantly for in simpler terms. Because I’m pretty sure I know what they were talking about but they put it in technical terms.

It all comes down to something that I’ve been talking about a lot, which is acting. There’s a difference between singing and acting through song. When you do musical theatre, obviously your primary purpose is to act through song, and not to sing. If you’re giving a concert, the opposite is true; you want to sing, and don’t really have to act. Colleen, for the most part, sang in her performances. She sang very, very well, but the comments about her being too perfect and having to be able to let it slide a bit were basically comments that she tried so hard to hit every note right and sing every word clearly and with absolute perfect projection, to make it a memorable vocal performance. But when you’re acting, that sort of perfection isn’t always what you want. That sort of perfection is stale and devoid of emotion and passion, and without that it’s hard to make people feel like they’re actually watching the story. You have to express, for example, that you are feeling what you should feel in that situation, and sometimes that means sacrificing vocal perfection for emotion.

The best analogy for this might be just regular acting. You can, in regular acting (especially on stage) learn how to do perfect projection and enunciation, and how to keep nerves and quavers from your voice. All good actors learn most of these things. However, these are just a means to an end, which is of making it so that people understand what you’re saying and believe it, and so get into the story that you’re presenting. But if your character is supposed to be someone who is shy and mumbles, a good actor will deliberately mumble. If it’s a case where they’re supposed to be nervous, they will deliberately stutter and speak nervously. If they’re supposed to be half-crying, they’ll half-cry. The very best actors can incorporate all of these things that make their speech less clear artfully into their performances while still having what they’re saying be perfectly and completely understandable. Except when it’s not supposed to be, of course. Thus, you end up with a less perfect performance, but one that captures the emotion of the situation better.

The same thing applies to the songs in musical theatre. The catch in Danielle’s voice when she was singing was artfully done to express the emotion. For the most part, when it was complained that they were “out of tune” I will say that I didn’t notice, but it likely was artfully being out of tune, sacrificing the perfect tone and clarity of the music in order to better express the emotion of their songs. And what Colleen didn’t do was that, was sacrifice the singing for the sake of the emotion. And if you’re going to star in musical theatre, you really do have to do that. If you can pull off the emotions properly, most of the audience won’t notice if you slip a little in the singing because they will be so wrapped up in the moment, if those slips don’t enhance it themselves. The same thing applied to Stephanie’s missing of a line in her song. Not knowing the song, I didn’t notice … but if she’d acted like she’d slipped, I would have. But when all you offer is the song, then if you miss, I’ll notice because that’s all I’m paying attention to. The more you give me to think about, the more you can get away with … and likely the more I’ll enjoy it.

This is why I’d like to see Colleen go more the Charlotte Church route than the musical theatre route; her natural attributes are simply perfect for listening to her on CD or watching her in concert, and they work against her when she tries to act.

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