12
Jun
14

Queensland Cabaret Festival – a chat with Melody Beck

 

On Friday night we enjoyed David Campbell and John Bucchino in Concert and last night the Queensland Cabaret Festival really got started with Frolic, a free event at Brisbane Powerhouse. Unfortunately we missed it while we were getting our burlesque on at a Diabolique rehearsal! It looked like fun! Were you there?

 

Until June 21 2014 Queensland Cabaret Festival will be captivating audiences (and we can’t wait to see some of these artists bring their shows to Noosa Long Weekend!). See the complete program here. If you’re out and about remember to tag your Tweets & Insta pics with #QLDCabFest

 

Meanwhile, we caught up with Melody Beck, winner of Your Theatrics’ International Cabaret Contest and star of Unseen: A Tribute to Marni Nixon.

 

You’ve heard her voice, now hear her story. 

Marni Nixon is remembered as “The Voice of Hollywood”. Her dulcet tones have been memorialised in some of the greatest music theatre tunes of our time including songs from West Side StoryMy Fair Lady, The King and I and many more.

 

 

Melody, you’re the winner of Your Theatrics’ International Cabaret Contest in 2014 – congrats! What was it that made you and your show stand out from the rest?

Thank you! Marni Nixon’s story is one that I believe really resonates with a lot of people. The fact that she had this tremendous talent and that she couldn’t ever say it was her singing in these films at the time, I just thought it was important in terms of giving credit where credit is due, and I’m sure it is something we can all relate to in some way. I have always been fascinated with her and I just thought it was such a fantastic story. I guess the panel of judges thought so too.

 

You were a finalist in the 2012 competition, known then as the Annual Australian Cabaret Showcase. What made you enter again, and what has winning the contest done for you?

I absolutely loved my experience from competing in 2012, meeting so many delightful people, and learning a lot about the ins and outs of cabaret as an art form. I suppose, I just really wanted to tell Marni’s story, and it was a chance to try out my material in front of a supportive audience. I was completely speechless when they called my name as the winner and thought I must have imagined it.

It is such a phenomenal opportunity, to tour my own self devised cabaret show to prestigious Cabaret Festivals all around Australia and to New York for the New York Musical Theatre Festival. I’ve always been passionate about performing but winning the contest has made me even more so. There are so many opportunities to learn and grow as a musician and artist, and it has made me think differently about styles and approaches too.

 

Melody Beck. Image by Blueprint Studios

 

Tell us about your training, teachers, mentors, and the decision to enter the contest.

I have always been a singer and musician, coming from a very musical family, and have always been around the stage and music. I just recently finished studying at the University of New South Wales doing a Bachelor of Music in singing performance and a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Performance Studies, and throughout that I have continued my vocal tuition in both classical, music theatre and contemporary styles. I also teach singing privately, which is a great challenge, I’m constantly learning about the voice and performance, having a wonderful time doing it.

 

Entering the YTICC was such a great opportunity to get up in front of peers on an international level and perform. I would’ve been crazy not to enter!

 

Check back in October for details about the 2015 contest!

 

How did your show, Unseen: A Tribute to Marni Nixon, come about? Can you talk us through its development over the last year?

The show came about through my personal interest in Marni’s story. I was talking to my mum about different show ideas and she pointed out that I should do something I feel close to, and Marni’s story really resonated with me on a professional and personal level. I want the whole world to know who she is, if possible.

 

The Guardian refers to Nixon as “one of the best-loved voices nobody knew”. Those of us who grew up in musical theatre households knew very early that she’d sung Maria’s songs in West Side Story for Natalie Wood, and many more.

I was lucky enough to be able to interview Marni recently, which was an incredible opportunity and greatly helped the development of the show. She was kind enough to spend over an hour on the phone with me from her home in New York and she proved to be every bit as gracious and humble as I would have imagined!

 

Amazing! Tell us about growing up as a singer and discovering Marni Nixon.

I was always told who she was, from an early age. We’d watch movie-musicals like West Side Story and My Fair Lady and my dad and mum would always point out that the singing voice was Marni Nixon. I suppose as a younger child, I didn’t realise the significance of this, the fact that she wasn’t credited at the time of the film’s release. The fact that somebody was singing for somebody else just always reminded me of Singing In The Rain, Marni is a lot like Kathy Seldon in that respect.

 


 

Nixon never received a screen credit and the fact that she was dubbing for the stars was kept a secret, just like in Singing in the Rain. The public learned eventually, but as a performing artist, can you imagine being a ghost in the industry?

Thank goodness she did get credited in the end. I imagine that back then it was quite common, and no one would really bat an eyelid, because they did get paid, and they were paid as musicians for their services, the only thing is they weren’t credited. Nowadays, with the engineers and technology the way it is, there is no need for Ghosting, as they can sweeten and manipulate the notes of anybody to make it sound presentable.

I imagine it would have been quite anti-climactic in a way. To sing for such a big star and then nobody know that is was your voice sending shivers down peoples spines. It would be so hard to keep such a big secret!

 

Nixon took great pride in replicating the voices she dubbed. Did you also study the artists for whom she recorded? She worked so closely with Deborah Kerr for example – it’s fascinating stuff.

Marni was very very good at replicating voices indeed. She adored working with Deborah as they both were kindred in nature and spirit. They spent quite some time together moving as ‘one’ as they both wanted the best possible performance they could give, and were determined to achieve that as perfectly and seamlessly as possible.

I have indeed been studying the artists Marni ghosted, and have tried out different methods she may have used to replicate their sounds. This involved a lot of research and watching the films and listening to recordings of them speak over and over again. It has been a great joy, as they are some of my favourite films and stars of the 50’s and 60’s. It’s been a lot of fun. There are some really interesting interactions between Marni and the stars she sung for, which I explore throughout my show.

 

Melody Beck. Image by Blueprint Studios.

 

We’re looking forward to seeing your show at the Powerhouse during the Queensland Cabaret Festival and after that at the Noosa Long Weekend Festival. You’ve just come from Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Where else will you take the show?

After Queensland on the 14th of June at Brisbane Powerhouse, I’ll be taking the show back to Side Lounge in Sydney for a performance on the 19th of June. Melbourne Cabaret Festival on the 29th of June, Tasmanian Cabaret Festival from the 6th of July, then I jet off to New York for the New York Musical Theatre Festival where I will be performing on the 17th of July, and hopefully having a lesson with the woman herself, Miss Marni Nixon. I then come back for the fabulous Noosa Long Weekend Festival on the 23rd, and then Ballarat Cabaret Festival on the 6th of October. It’s all happening and I am absolutely thrilled!

 

That’s an impressive debut tour. What’s next?

I am really looking forward to touring the show and developing it even further. Hopefully working with more industry professionals and developing new works as well. I really love performing and creating, so for me this has been a dream come true.

 

 

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