This question permeated my recent holiday season. Ever since Christmas Day, it has been asked of me by family and friends. It’s asked with the same tone a lawyer uses in court when conducting a cross-examination; in other words, they think they are asking a question whose answer they think they already know.
Music written for the theatre is, by necessity, larger then life.
There are other problems with the movie musical: the oft-discussed issue of casting. Finding A-list celebrities who can sing is one thing; finding A-list celebrities who can sing a specific score is something else. Composers write for specific voices; throughout the rehearsal process, they continue to tailor the scores as the cast falls into place. Stephen Sondheim wrote Send in the Clowns specifically with actress Glynis Johns in mind. “Her chief limitation was an inability to sustain a note,” wrote Sondheim in his book Finishing the Hat. “The solution was to write short breathy phrases.”