By: Paulanne Simmons
August 14, 2021: Scott Siegel, writer, host and all-around impresario, opened Broadway Belters SING! by thanking the audience for “braving the heat and the Delta variant” to come see his show at The Green Room 42. He then offered a definition of a belter: “You know it when you hear it.” The rest of the show gave the audience abundant opportunities to prove him right.
Siegel, as usual, has gathered a cast of talented troupers: Nightlife Award winner Carole J. Bufford, whose solo shows include “Shades of Blue” and “Body & Soul”; Lianne Marie Dobbs, who has appeared in productions of Emma, Jekyll & Hydeand Man of La Mancha; Kristin Dausch, who played Fanny Brice in a Texas regional production of Funny Girl and is a veteran of Siegel’s Broadway by the Year at The Town Hall; Emily Janes, who’s appeared on Siegel’s Broadway’s Rising Stars and 54 Sings Broadway’s Greatest Hits. Together, these singers demonstrated the various types of songs that are traditionally belted.
There are the odes to unrequited love: Kander and Ebb’s “Maybe This Time,” from Cabaret (Janes) and Lerner and Lane’s “What Did I Have that I Don’t Have,” from On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever), (Bufford).
And there are ballads of resignation: Marilyn, Allan Bergman’s “Fifty Percent,” from Ballroom and Lionel Bart’s “As Long as He Needs Me” from Oliver!, numbers which gave Dobbs the opportunity to strut her suff.
There are also songs of determination: Julie Styne and Bob Merrill’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” introduced by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl (Dausch) and Styne and Sondheim’s “Some People” from Gypsy (Dausch).
And there are some songs that are belted out for pure fun: from On the Town, “I Can Cook, Too,” which combines music by Leonard Bernstein and the witty lyrics of Comden and Green (Dausch). Or a really innovative performer can turn a standard country tune into a sexy belted ballad, as Bufford did with Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”
Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a song is belted because of something intrinsic in the music and theme, or because it was introduced or made famous by a belter. Certainly, Barbra Streisand’s version of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” and Liza Minnelli’s rendition of “Maybe This Time” set the tone and the standard for future vocalists. And Ethel Merman belted just about anything she sang.
Such traditions, of course, put a special obligation on Siegel’s intrepid group. And surely Dausch knows how to channel Merman and Janes can give Minnelli a run for her money. But in the end, it’s the unique interpretation of the individual performer that makes us never tire of even the most familiar melodies.
Photography: Sophie Rapiejko