Here’s my #1 takeaway from the 2022 Tony Awards broadcast: it was Intense! Phew! Exciting musical theater depicts characters in extreme situations, experiencing extreme emotions, and the Tonys turned up the dial to 11 time and again during their most recent awards show.
Exhibit A: the performance of Joaquina Kalukongo, who won the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her work in Paradise Square. Check out the last moments of her performance:
The final notes of her song are almost unbearably intense: loud, long, fierce, to the point where surely viewers began to wonder: Will she hurt herself? How long will she hold this? Displays of extreme intensity are often accompanied by a sense of danger, and that was certainly the case here. Afterwards, the audience roared their approval (and relief), reminding me that this is what we crave from a stage performance: people who push themselves past the limits of what we think is possible.
Exhibit B: the performance of Ariana DeBose in the opening number.
This opening number is challenging in many ways – complex choreo, tricky lyrics, a choppy song comprised of lots of quotes from other songs. Ariana carries it all off with seeming ease, and that’s what we want. “Never let them see you sweat,” is a familiar bit of advice given to young performers – it actually was written by an ad exec as the tagline for an antiperspirant commercial, but it absolutely applies in musical theater performance.
Intensity was everywhere in the Tony broadcast: intensity created by ensemble choreography like the virtuosic dance steps of Paradise Square (I loved watching my former student, Sidney DuPont, sailing through the air), intensity of sound and light in Six (screlting divas ultra-amplified and lit by powerful beams of light that stabbed through the air), intensity of feeling from the winners in their acceptance speeches.
And intensity could also be conveyed through silence and stillness, as it was in Phylicia Rashad’s acceptance speech. Her words were delivered at a stately pace, set off by pauses, and her powerful truths stated in a controlled, measured way.
Intensity is the “I” of SAVI, the fourth and final key attributes of successful musical theater performance embodied in its acronymic name. In their pursuit of intensity, singing actors must train like athletes, cultivating strength, endurance, range, control, agility and coordination through deliberate practice. Are you looking for ways to bring a little extra “extra” to your performances on the musical stage? The exercises in The SAVI Singing Actor were created to help you do just that! Grab your copy at the SAVI Store.