by Ryan Goodale
We know belting isn’t a Broadway invention, but when Ethel Merman bust onto the Great White Way in 1930 she brought a brassy and brash sound that wasn’t going anywhere. Granted, ladies had been belting since the vaudeville days, but belting has found such a wonderful fit with musical theatre. There is a certain thrill that comes with one of your favorite gals hollering for their life on the stage. There are so many particular songs, actresses or moments that have left us with goosebumps. To be fair, these goosebumps usually happen when there is the perfect combination of vocal technique (mix-belters, we’re looking at you; no one wants to shred their vocal chords), music and acting to elevate the authors words and score to new heights.
We’ve seen the sharing of actors and actresses across the pond between the West End and Broadway for decades. Broadway has lent some incredible talent to create roles in West End shows. Patti LuPone, Caissie Levy, and Patina Miller are a few Broadway ladies that have originated roles in the West End. On the flip side we’ve been given Broadway stints by West End leading ladies like Kerry Ellis, Rachel Tucker (who is actually Irish) and 2016 Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo. The Brits aren’t holding out on us by any means, but here is a look (in no particular order) at some ladies that we wish they would share with us in the future. Pretty please?
1. Julie Atherton
Julie has tread the West End boards (and toured the UK) in several shows. Her comic timing is impeccable, her vocal placement is forward and bright, and most importantly, the switch from her mix to chest voice is quite seamless. We certainly aren’t upset about the option up near the end of the song.
2. Rachel John
Rachel appeared in the final company of We Will Rock You, she was the alternate Felicia (and replaced) in Memphis, and currently can be seen in The Bodyguard on the West End. She really throws herself into the song both physically, emotionally and vocally, making it pretty thrilling to watch.
3. Louise Dearman
Louise has accomplished something that, as far as we know, no other theatre actress has. She has appeared in the West End production of Wicked two times; once as Glinda, then returned as Elphaba. That is legendary. Louise is playing no games when it comes to her buzzy belt married with floaty soprano. (Sopranos; we love you too!)
4. Rebecca Trehearn
Rebecca has graced the stage in many musicals, from the classic to contemporary. She was in the West End company of Ghost The Musical covering Molly and later went on to play the role in the UK tour. She is another from this list that gives you a seamless mix-to-belt with buttery mix and husky belt (and those vocal runs?!).
5. Beverley Knight
Currently starring as Rachel Marron in the West End production of The Bodyguard, Beverley also originated the role of Felicia in Memphis on the West End. (Rachel John replaced her in Memphis and now they play sisters in The Bodyguard. That’s an “I Run To You” we need to hear.) She is a well-known British recording artist, but boy are we thrilled she has found a love for the stage. As you’ll see above, she can keep you nostalgic all the while putting her own spin on a song you’ve heard countless times. We don’t know if we like her riffs or growls more, but we do know that we are here for it. We are here for ALL of it and are moments away from nabbing the next flight across the pond to see this live. Wow.