Much Ado About Microphones

singer21.jpgUPI reports that Andrew Lloyd Weber has warned the British government that its plan to sell off part of the wireless spectrum will spell the end of wireless microphones in theaters and therefore “the end of musicals” in the U.K.

I only bring it up because I have always hated amplified music and singing in the theater—unless it’s rock & roll. When a voice is electronically amplified, it usually doesn’t sound as if it is coming from the person on the stage. It comes from all around. It also sounds larger than life—and life is the whole point of live performance. There is magic in a live voice or violin or drum, for that matter. For heaven’s sake, why do they even stick mics right up to the drums?

Every main-stage musical is amplified nowadays. Whenever I see one, invariably I wonder what it would sound like without the mics. I took the kids to Beauty and the Beast over the holidays, and I guarantee you Deborah Lew has the pipes to be heard at the back of the rear mezzanine without a mic.

Perhaps I am romanticizing the past. Perhaps microphones make it possible for singers to save their voices and do more shows. Perhaps mics have been a boon to the hearing-impaired. But “unplugged” has been such a popular fad—even for rock & roll acts. I’m wondering if there isn’t a market for more than one measly Broadway Unplugged show per year?

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