With the success of La La Land, Beauty and the Beast and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, musicals are once again making a comeback. As a die-hard musical fan, this is exciting news. What’s less exciting however, is the lack of truly great voices we’re seeing on screen. Seriously, Hollywood, what’s going on? I refuse to believe that there aren’t plenty of talented triple threats out there who can sing, dance and act. After all, we can’t expect Hugh Jackman to do it all by himself, can we? He’s only one Wolverine, I mean, man.
The common refrain is that movies need stars to succeed at the box office. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, studios would cast movie stars and often dub their voices if they couldn’t sing. World class singers like Marni Nixon were brought in to provide the vocals. You may not recognize her name, but you’ve certainly heard her voice. Over the course of her storied career, Nixon sang for some of the most iconic musicals. She sang for Natalie Wood in West Side Story, Deborah Kerr in The King and I, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, just to name a few.
Per her contract, Nixon was never given credit for her work until later in life, as the studios didn’t want word getting out that their starlets couldn’t sing. Nowadays, the practice of dubbing in a singing voice is frowned upon, as it should be. Artists should be properly credited with their work and their voice. And the industry has changed: with social media and a 24-hour news cycle, there’s no hiding something like voice dubbing.
But why should they have to? Movies are no longer reliant on stars to sell their pictures. the golden days of the movie star are waning. Instead of hiring actors who can’t sing, or dubbing their voices, why not just hire actors who can actually do the singing, dancing and acting required for a great musical performance. A novel idea, I know. And it’s not like they’re hard to find. You can find them on Broadway. That’s how Disney used to find their princesses. Paige O’Hara, who voiced Belle in the animated Beauty and the Beast, starred on Broadway, as did Jodi Benson (The Little Mermaid) and Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas).
Hell, you can find amazing voices on YouTube. In this day and age, there’s no excuse not to have musicals with actors who can sing. There are plenty of talented people out there just waiting to be discovered, and plenty of Broadway stars who have the chops for film and television. And besides, no one should have to suffer through Russell Crowe’s Les Miserables performance ever again.
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