Actors as Singers

After the conversation in the comment section of my previous post about La La Land, I’ve been thinking more about actors stepping into a singing role. As proven by La La Land, not everyone can do it convincingly. Apparently this also applies to Emma Watson in the forthcoming Beauty and the Beast, in the opinion of the writer in this review shared by ServetusSome singers make the transition to acting quite well, though, perhaps because they are able to imbue songs with emotion and so the experience is transferable. Justin Timberlake, for example, did an excellent job in The Social Network.

One of my favourite singers who is also a great actor is Barbra Streisand. Her talent and skill have lead her to win awards for movies, stage, TV and records. One of her movies I really love is On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, alongside a very young Jack Nicholson. Streisand also is not afraid to get involved in causes she believes in, as demonstrated in her reworking of Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” in a Trump send-up at the Clinton fundraiser she threw back in September.

ENCORE-MPSB_deluxe-300x300Aside from her acting and singing, Streisand is also an accomplished director (Yentl, The Prince of Tides, The Mirror Has Two Faces), and she put all of these talents to good use in putting together her most recent album. Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. Streisand’s voice is still amazing and she certainly knows how to put a song over to an audience. But, perhaps more importantly for this album, she knows how to cast and direct an actor to get the best possible vocal performance of a Broadway song. “Being an actress,” she says, “I like to sing songs that give me something to act…This is a way for me to use actors who act and sing, with Broadway material.”

Some of the actors she selected are obvious choices. Hugh Jackman, for example, won a Tony award for his performance as Peter Allen (“I Go to Rio”) in The Boy from Oz.  But even Jackman was blown away by the idea that Barbra Streisand wanted to sing with him, and he tells the story of getting the email about it and his wife screaming when he showed her the message on his phone. He was nervous when he started recording “Any Moment Now,” but he became more comfortable as they worked. “This voice I’m hearing is not someone who’s worried about the notes or how long I hold this or intonation. She’s worried about being truthful… and that’s inspiring.”

Other singing partners are less obvious, such as comedian Melissa McCarthy, but Streisand matches the actors with songs that play to their strengths and puts them at ease so they can give their best possible performance. With McCarthy, she performs “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)”, using a light comedic style which both of them can really do well. “She’s never been in a recording studio before. This was all, you know, new to her.” And McCarthy said, “I absolutely loved having her direct me and produce me…It feels fun, and yet you know that what she’s saying, you’re in good hands.”

This album is really worth a listen, and the videos on Streisand’s VEVO channel shed light on the creative process and share some interesting and cute stories. Other performers on the album include Chris Pine, Ann Hathaway, Alec Baldwin, and Antonio Banderas.

6 thoughts on “Actors as Singers

  1. when a singer branches off into acting it’s often seen as commendable, yet there can be a stigma towards actors who share their singing talent, like ‘oh, isn’t that cute’. it’s a shame because I think we’re losing out on some really good singers who just happen to be actors! a singer who can act/an actor who can sing isn’t that far of a stretch for me to believe though, since most entertainers have varied artistic talents 🙂


    • Certainly most of the actors in this album can sing well. Sometimes though I think that an actor may not necessarily have “the pipes” for singing. A good director with the right material may be able to help the actor’s talents shine through.


  2. I have to see this out. Hugh Jackman has a marvellous voice and I still remember watching ‘Great Performances’ on PBS to see his turn in Oklahoma after X-Men. As for Chris Pine, I had to stifle giggles during Into the Woods. There was something, er, Shatner-esque about that musical number.


  3. Yeah, not everyone can do both great and La La Land really proved that. But Anne Hathaway can. And Hugh Jackman can. Barbra Streisand certainly can! I have heard this cd and have seen those videos, really enjoyed them!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I find the videos really interesting for the stories and also watching Streisand work with people like McCarthy on their vocals.
      I was looking up Anthony Newley thinking “Wow, he’s still alive?”, only to find that he died in 1999. But they did such a great job putting her vocals in with his that you’d think they’re both current.

      Liked by 1 person

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