On the spur of the moment I went to see Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf with Kathleen Turner. What a great play. It was fabulous--she was fabulous.
All these London theaters are not that large. The acoustics in the Royal Opera House, for instance, are excellent. The actors in Virginia Woolf spoke in normal voices and could be heard easily.
So what is this huge blast of sound in musicals about? Saturday Night Fever is basically a disco opera, and disco is nothing but loud noise, so that makes sense. And Elton John is a rock musician and probably wouldn't even think about not amplifying Lion King. But the music of The Woman in White isn't disco and isn't rock and roll. It just blasts you out of your chair to be doing it.
Musicals used to be about singing just as much as opera--witness Kenny's album of Broadway songs--but not any more. If you could get gorillas to sing on tune, they could do as well as the average singer in a musical. They bellow and scream, they can't integrate their registers at all, in short, they just plain stink.
We have compared notes and all agree we didn't detect amplification of the singers in Doctor Atomic, and were completely surprised to read about it in the New York Times. I'm good with that. If you can fool me, you can do it. You have my blessing. But the rest of you--just what is the attraction of all that distortion?
The only really good singing I have heard outside the opera house since I came was the woman who played Rafiki in Lion King, Brown Lindiwe Mkhize, from South Africa. Incredible. She was worth the price of admission. And!!! She also got the most applause at the end. People know.
Now I've got that out of my system.