Cabaret Festival

Adelaide Cabaret Festival Review: Melody Beck – Unseen: A Tribute To Marni Nixon

Melody Beck

2014 Your Theatrics International Cabaret Contest winner, Melody Beck, pays tribute to Marni Nixon, the actual singing voice for the stars of classic films.


Melody Beck

Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre in association with Your Theatrics International
Reviewed 7 June 2014

The 2014 Your Theatrics International Cabaret Contest winner, Melody Beck, pays tribute to Marni Nixon. Marni who? The answer is,: one of Hollywood’s worst kept secrets. She played Sister Sophia in the film version of The Sound Of Music, but Hollywood musical film fans would know her better as Deborah Kerr in The King And I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady – as their singing voices.

Nixon was what is termed a ‘ghost singer’, and in her case, ‘The Ghostest with the Mostest’ as named by Liberace. A ‘ghost singer’ is someone whose voice is used when the film’s star either doesn’t have strong enough singing voice or they can’t sing very well (sorry ladies, but that is not Christopher Plummer singing Edelweiss in The Sound Of Music!).

Ironically, the film that introduced the movie-going public to ‘dubbing’ was Singin’ In The Rain. In the film, Jean Hagen’s character, Lena LaMont, is a silent film star whose awful voice can’t make the transition to talkies. Debbie Reynolds’ character, Cathy Seldon, is offered the job of providing LaMont’s voice for her first talkie, yet in the making of Singin’ in the Rain, Reynold’s voice was also dubbed for her song, Would You?

Unseen is a fact, and fun-filled show showcasing the versatility of not only Marni Nixon, but Beck’s vocal range and ability to sing with accents. There are many delights in this production, such as: Beck demonstrating how Nixon had to sing a duet with herself (as Natalie Wood and Rita Moreno) in West Side Story; a wickedly funny parody of Show Me from My Fair Lady, entitled Dub Me; Beck’s wonderful rendering of the very beautiful An Affair To Remember; and a nice little dig at the fact that modern movie musicals don’t dub but re-mix instead – and maybe some should (a recent filmed musical featuring French peasants, perhaps?).

This production was the Adelaide premiere of an upcoming Australian tour however, it was more of a dress rehearsal. Whilst the show’s content and Beck’s vocals are great, the performer seemed nervous and the show under rehearsed. Beck stumbled more than once over names; occasionally forgetting where she was in the story line and what song came next, also mis-pitching at one stage.

Once this act is polished though, it should hit the road with a bang.

Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Twitter: @briangods

Venue: Artspace  Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 7 June 2014
Duration: 1 hour 10 mins

The Adelaide Cabaret Festival runs 6-12 June 2014.


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