We Love to Hear It: “the motown project”

Alicia Hall Moran

Via the Under the Radar Festival 2021
Conceived, arranged, and performed by Alicia Hall Moran
Presented by Joe’s Pub
Part of Joe’s Pub New York Voices Commission
Executive Producer: Thomas O. Kriegsmann / ArKtype
Featuring:  Thomas Flippin (guitar), Steven Herring (vocals), Barrington Lee (vocals), Jason Moran (piano), and Reggie Washington (bass) in collaboration with choreographer Amy Hall Garner

Production Program 
January 8 – 17, 2021
The Public Theater YouTube Channel
Public Theater on Facebook

Critique by Kitty Drexel

YouTube — Opera singers can sing anything.

Twelve years ago I took an audition course at London’s ArtsEd summer school as part of my then year-long transition from singing opera to musical theatre. On the first day, like with so any courses of its ilk, the instructors had the students sing for each other. I sang a Kurt Weill piece to show off my legit voice with the intention of following up with a mixed belt/character piece should the instructors request it. 

I was shocked when the instructors instead asked me why I would dare cross genres. You are classically trained, they said, sing opera. I was told to stay in my lane on the first day and they spent the next week repeating themselves. Those fools couldn’t imagine an audience for any cross-over work. This from the country that gave us Il Divo in 2004. 

The instructors of that particular ArtsEd class lacked imagination. They couldn’t navel gaze beyond their own careers in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s theatre producing machine (which regularly employs opera singers in its productions). If they’d bothered working with a skilled opera singer (who can also act) perform (or even me), they’d know this. Just because something is unexpected that doesn’t mean it’s bad. 

Soprano Alicia Hall Moran sings Motown hits with an operatic voice. She is very good. Her gestures are natural; she takes up space on stage; she has presence when she sings; you could drive a Mack truck through her technique; her spoken dialogue carries as much weight as her sung arias; her makeup and costumes are impeccable.  Her sound is covered but bright. For all intents and purposes, she’s delivering a relatable, enjoyable performance of pop hits. It’s also opera. So what? 

If you can understand Shakespeare, you can understand Moran singing “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” 

The editing on the video submitted to Under the Radar 2021 is not good. The bottom, left corner crediting is inconsistent. Performances are compiled from different recordings. Whomever combined them took little care; It looks hackneyed. Worst of all, Moran’s last performance of “You’re All I Need to Get By” is so soft as to be indistinguishable. I had to check the program to know what I was hearing. 

Moran was in Boston a few years ago. Enjoy. 

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