Sing Happy: 22 Years Later!
Marita Stryker - DMA Voice Pedagogy Recital (Shenandoah Conservatory)
Corie Melaugh - Piano
Thursday, February 16, 2023
Sing Happy - Flora the Red Menace (Kander/Ebb)
This was the first song I ever “belted.” I have a very vivid memory of standing in the big rehearsal studio of Austin Musical Theatre, with the directors Scott Thompson and Richard Byron telling me to “just go for it!” Then me, with tears streaming down my face, making a sound that I didn’t even know I held inside. The song means a lot to me because it was a big turning point from being thought of as a dancer to really being able to stand in front and hold the stage with song.
The show Flora the Red Menace was Liza Minelli’s big break on Broadway. She made her Broadway debut and won a Tony award for the role of Flora at the age of 19! In the show, this song comes at a time where everything seems impossible, but she’s able to pick herself up and sing herself happy. This year, I am learning my voice again, after having a surgery to correct a respiratory issue that was making the act of singing (and often speaking) anxiety-ridden and unpredictable. So, while I’m not there yet, I am enjoying the ride as I become a student again…standing in a rehearsal studio, with tears streaming down my face, and my amazing teachers telling me to “just go for it!”
The Boy Next Door - Meet Me in St. Louis (Martin/Blane)
The end table drawer of my Grammy’s house was full of VHS tapes, each one a movie musical or variety show. One of our favorites was Meet Me in St. Louis, with Judy Garland in long auburn hair and a turn-of-the-century, blue-striped dress, singing about her handsome young neighbor, John Truett.
I’m letting 18-year-old Marita start the verse for me!
I Dreamed a Dream - Les Miserables (Schönberg/Kretzmer)
My Grammy’s love of the musical seemed to be hereditary, as my Mom took me to the touring and local musicals from a very young age. My first show was Cats (of course!) at the age of five, when the tour came through Austin. I sat in the audience, singing every word. The 1980s were primed with epic musicals, and we saw as many as possible! One of my favorites was Les Miserables and this song has always been a secret favorite. My time teaching in Japan taught me not to be a snob about what musicals I enjoy. There is a reason these shows are popular, and for me the nostalgia is strong.
What More Do I Need - Saturday Night (Sondheim)
My voice teacher in high school, Michael McKelvey, taught me how to turn my new-found belting power into something more sustainable, coached me through years of All-State and college auditions, and gave me some of my favorite songs (like this one)! He helped me process some of the new things I was learning from my voice teacher, Florence Birdwell, at OCU, and has remained a friend and mentor to this day. We have taught next door to each other at Texas Arts Project, shared our experience of workshops, served on the same committees, and we were even finalists for the same job at one point (for which we compared notes)! He helped me get my equity card as Florence in Chess and was one of my first phone calls when I accepted my upcoming position at St. Olaf. He taught me how to mix (my vocal registration, and my multi-hyphenate life).
I’m Not Afraid of Anything - Songs for a New World (Brown)
As someone who never fit into the “type” boxes (I moved to NYC at a time where you were either a Glinda or an Elphaba), I’ve always found it difficult to pinpoint what my go-to song “should” be. This song has always just felt good. As overdone as it may be (and we’ve established that I no longer care about that), I choose to follow the advice of Adriene Mishler, and “find what feels good.”
Now When the Rain Falls - Scarlet Pimpernel (Wildhorn/Knighton)
For two summers in high school and college, I attended Broadway Theatre Project, a three week residential intensive program under the artistic direction of Ann Reinking. In my second year, one of the guest artists was Frank Wildhorn and I had the opportunity to sing this song for him. It was cut from Scarlet Pimpernel. It was a very special memory.
Years later, while teaching in Tokyo, I was asked to do some stylistic and diction coaching for a Takarazuka star who performed Chauvelin in the company’s production of Scarlet Pimpernel. She was preparing for Frank Wildhorn and Friends in Concert, a special event that he regularly hosts around the world. It was a full circle moment, as I was re-introduced to Frank backstage and reminded him of our meeting two decades earlier. He says he remembered because at that point the song was relatively unknown, but I think he was just being kind.
Meadowlark - The Baker’s Wife (Schwartz)
I just love this song…and Liz Callaway…and Stephanie J. Block.
Another Suitcase, Another Hall - Evita (Webber)
As a young dancer, I was lucky to get involved with local equity theatre companies and perform in the ensemble of many shows during high school. My first professional role was at Zach Theatre, as Peron’s Mistress in Evita. For the CD, Gerard Lebeda (who played Che) and John Howrey sing their parts. And listening to this CD for the first time since I made it, hearing their gorgeous voices brought back a wave of memories and so much appreciation for the adults that were my mentors/older siblings in those early performing years.
As a 40 year old, I would feel very weird singing this song for you today. But as an adult, I can join my mentors and add a bit of loving support.
I’ve Never Said I Love You - Dear World (Herman)
This is a lesser-known Jerry Herman song from a lesser-known Jerry Herman musical that starred Angela Lansbury (although she won a Tony for it!) I’ve Never Said I Love You is the only song sung by the character Nina (a waitress). Very unusual for this small part to have this one killer song. I love the romantic melody, intimate honesty, and Hollywood ending! Our version tonight will be a little less Hollywood, because honestly, we’ve had a lot of money notes and we still have the 11 o’clock number coming!
Best in the World - A Day in Hollywood, Night in the Ukraine (Herman)
Another vivid memory: rehearsing for a cabaret-style show with fellow members of the Austin Musical Theatre company, and being coached by a dear friend and teacher Kevin Archambault. I took his direction and tried the song again. I look over to where he is sitting to see him in tears. It moved me so fully, not only because I felt I had accomplished something magical, but also because my teacher was fully present and vulnerable in that moment.
One year ago, we lost our friend Kevin to cancer. He was an inspirational teacher and director, blast of a castmate, and the perfect midnight phone call for those moments when you really need to process an overwhelming moment. He would drive six hours to see you in a show, take a day off to sit with you by the Hudson and catch up, or agree to be your date to prom, both of you getting ready backstage after a show with the help of your castmates.
I still see his face after I sang this song during that rehearsal ages ago. I will always strive to hold space in the way Kevin and my many wonderful teachers have held space for me.
This song is dedicated to Kevin Archambault.
Beautiful Sleeping Giant - Stand Alone (New)
Only a few short months after recording the original CD, I started my time at Oklahoma City University. In the first rehearsal for the Fall musical, I met my college best friend, Joel B. New. Throughout our time in college, he shared some of his first songs with me and he staged his first full musical. Going on to the musical theatre writing program at NYU for grad school, winning a Jonathan Larson award, producing multiple shows and an album, Joel writing has developed into something uniquely his and absolutely wonderful.
I am honored to sing his song tonight, about the magic and pull of New York City and all that comes with it. I find myself on the other side of this song now, having been drawn to pursue the performer’s life within the city’s maze for eight years and choosing to admire it from a distance in the end. One of my greatest joys now is guiding others on their journey toward their own beautiful sleeping giant.
Corie Melaugh - a master collaborator in teaching and in performing, who flew down from her new Boston life to play with me!
Pam and Roger Stryker - always there and always supportive in this wild ride, around the world and back, and I am just so grateful
Kelli Stryker - the sister who listens and laughs when I need it most
Maurizio D’Errico - the husband who does last minute audio edits, figures out the live-stream even when I’m indecisive, fixes my Apple watch before I throw it across the room, makes me coffee, refills the humidifier at 4am, and has patience with my anxiety (most of the time)
Penelope and Enzo D’Errico - the kids who yell “Mommy!” and hug-tackle me when I come home (the best life balance)
Joel B. New - the bestie composer whose brilliance and life journey continues to inspire me
Megan Richards - my DMA ride-or-die, honestly one of the best parts of my SU experience is our friendship. Bowie Bulldogs (HS) to Shenandoah Hornets!
SU VOICE PEDAGOGY PROGRAM:
Dr. Kathryn Green
Dr. David Meyer
Dr. Matt Edwards
Dr. Rod Vester
SING HAPPY 2001:
OTHER TEACHERS HERE IN MY SONG: