Pop Star Broadway: YouTube Fireside Chat

Written by Lindsay Price

Episode 55: Pop Star Broadway: YouTube Fireside Chat

In this edition of the YouTube Fireside Chat Lindsay and Craig look at pop singers who take on Broadway. Do they work the same theatre magic or do they leave us cold? Should pop singers stay off the stage?


Show Notes

Have You Heard? by Krista Boehnert

Nick Jonas in Les Miserables

Mel C in Jesus Christ Superstar

Ricky Martin in Evita

Reba McEntire in Annie Get Your Gun

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Episode Transcript

Lindsay: Welcome to TFP, The Theatrefolk Podcast. I am Lindsay Price, resident playwright for Theatrefolk, developing all our podcasts at the World Domination Global Headquarters. Hello, I hope you’re well. Thanks for listening.

Episode 55, YouTube Fireside Chat. I am tickled to death to welcome Craig Mason. Hello, Craig.

Craig: The World Domination Global Headquarters?

Lindsay: Yeah, I’m trying it out. I’m trying it out.

Craig: Okay. Alright.

Lindsay: [Laughs] Back to the podcast for another Fireside Chat. Today we’ve got pop singers taking on the musical theatre. All of the singers we’re going to listen to today actually performed the songs as part of their respective shows, not necessarily on Broadway but of similar ilk, professionally. And the first chap we’re going to listen to is Nick Jonas, who played Marius in Les Miz. Yes, he did. I’m not kidding. He performed the part in London and was part of the 25th anniversary humongous concert performance, which Craig, you and I have seen a couple of times.

Craig: And we’ve discussed on this podcast before.

Lindsay: Yes, of course we have. So the first thing I have to say about Nick Jonas is, oh Nick. [Laughs]

Craig: Okay.

Lindsay: Yes?

Craig: You know, I’ve seen that concert like a lot.

Lindsay: Yes.

Craig: And I have this theory about Nick Jonas.

Lindsay: Please.

Craig: Let’s just get all the stuff out of the way that you think I’m going to say. He’s outclassed in every way in this show.

Lindsay: Yes.

Craig: He has no ability to phrase a line. If you watch, he can’t go beyond three words without taking a breath.

Lindsay: No…

Craig: So there’s no overarching phrasing to what it is that he’s singing. He has a lot of trouble. I noticed him struggling with the accents, struggling with breath, struggling with phrasing, struggling with intention. But I will say this: This is a great one to start with, because what I feel about Nick Jonas is that for that role, I think he’s quite well-suited.

Lindsay: How come?

Craig: Well, because he kind of looks like the young lover.

Lindsay: Mm-hmm.

Craig: This is kind of a sappy character.

Lindsay: Yes.

Craig: And this is kind of a sappy character who grows into his own throughout the course of the show, so I think he kind of physically looks like it. And I also think, just from watching him—now, he makes no sense in this show because everyone else in the show surrounding him are legit, not just Broadway, but opera singers for the most part. And so he comes in with his pop voice and it just makes no sense, and that’s why you think he’s really bad. But I do think that he illuminates the show in a way that I feel like that you could have a production of this show, if everyone was singing in a…

Lindsay: On his level.

Craig: Not on his level, but singing in a pop style…

Lindsay: Hmm.

Craig: I think that the show could have a successful performance in the whole pop vein…

Lindsay: Hmm.

Craig: …rather than the more operaey vein that I think it’s written in and is normally performed. But I think that he shows that that can…

Lindsay: The pop voice.

Craig: …that that’s possible.

Lindsay: The pop voice…

Craig: Yeah.

Lindsay: …can handle it.

Craig: There are lots of things to work on with his actual performance, but I don’t think he’s as much of a train wreck as he appears.

Lindsay: Well, you said a very interesting thing in that the character—I’ll give you that he looks the part, and he certainly in the soap opera sort of style, the young lover style that Marius and Cosette represent, he has a good representation. But you also say that he’s a character who grows into his own. This is the song that demonstrates an adult Marius, and he by no means ever, ever finds growth in this song. He doesn’t know how to tell a story with a line.

Craig: No.

Lindsay: You know? Like I expect novels in these sentences, you know? My friends are dead and gone. My friends are dead.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

Lindsay: You know? And he…ugh.

Craig: That phrase, is that the one that goes [sings] “my friends are dead and gone?” Is that that one?

Lindsay: Yes.

Craig: That’s a great one to listen to because he was [sings] “my friends are dead and,” and then he takes a big breath because he has to prepare for that deep note to go down that he…

Lindsay: Low, low note.

Craig: Yeah.

Lindsay: Oh, and oh my heavens, when he says “became their last,” he cannot get out the word “became.” Like I laughed out loud. And it’s just I don’t see him visualizing what’s going on in the song. It’s a ghost. It’s a song of ghosts in the past and it’s painful and it’s bitter. He’s the only one alive.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

Lindsay: And there’s no storytelling going on.

Craig: No.

Lindsay: He just can barely…he could barely sing. But I love your notion. I love this notion of, well, what if everybody was from that same world?

Craig: Mm-hmm.

Lindsay: What would a pop Les Miz sound like? And you know, I think you’re right. I think that it has validity.

Craig: Yeah, I think so too. Yeah.

Lindsay: Awesome.

Craig: You’re right though, I mean he does need a lot of work on his performance…

Lindsay: On everything.

Craig: …and his acting. But yeah, I think it could be done.

Lindsay: Okay, sweet. Alright, so this next one, this next performer is what prompted this whole Fireside Chat, because I was on YouTube and you know, as you are wont to do on YouTube, you start with one video and then you see those videos in the side column, and you just go, “Oh, I’m going to watch that. Oh, I’m going to watch that.” And then you’re in the YouTube rabbit hole where it’s an hour later and you’ve just been watching videos. And for some reason, in the middle of my rabbit hole, I came across a song from Melanie C from Spice Girls, otherwise known as Sporty Spice, singing show tunes, and I’m like, “What? What is Melanie Spice singing”—Melanie Spice—“Melanie C singing show tunes?” And then I found out that she was actually recently and may still be touring with a version of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Craig: Hmm.

Lindsay: In 2012, there was a—take this for what it’s worth—reality show in England, ITV Superstar, to find Jesus…

Craig: [Laughs]

Linda: And Melanie—I know—Melanie C was one of the judges, and she also played Mary Magdalene. So they toured all of the UK, and then they went over to Australia this year, and have been touring Australia. And it is kind of like Les Miz, there’s a little more action to it, but it’s a huge, huge—it’s a stadium show.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

Lindsay: It’s a huge concert. I’ve seen clips. It’s rather interesting visually because it’s 21st century, so it’s…

Craig: Okay.

Lindsay: And it translates really well, and all the reviews and such that I read made a big point in saying that there’s not a lick of change in the words and about how it matches our current-day situation.

Craig: Well, then that harkens right back to the origins of the show, because Jesus Christ Superstar was first written as an album, just an audio thing.

Lindsay: Yeah, it does.

Craig: Yeah. And then…

Lindsay: And it was modern in its day, wasn’t it?

Craig: Yeah, it was…well, it was always staged in the seventies kind of thing because that’s the era that it was written in, and it wasn’t… And then, when it came off the album onto the stage, it didn’t go into theatres, it did this. It toured a rock stadium. So it toured stadiums. It was like a rock concert. That’s how it was performed. So this performance having a pop star in the show makes a lot more sense to me than Nick Jonas in Les Miz because this is exactly how it was meant to be put together originally.

Lindsay: Okay. And the song we listened to is I Don’t Know How to Love Him, Mary Magdalene’s feature song in Jesus Christ Superstar. What did you think?

Craig: Well, I just said what I thought a little bit that I think that it makes sense to have her there, but I will say that she has the exact same problems that Nick Jonas has. She cannot sustain a phrase. She takes a breath between “I” and “don’t know how to love him.”

Lindsay: It’s very breathy. It’s a very breathy performance, and I sometimes think that she is using a breathy performance to simulate emotion, and that is not the same thing. You can’t use like a lick or a pop vocal spin to portray what is supposedly a three-dimensional character having an emotion.

Craig: Mm-hmm. Yeah, and I think this is going to become a problem when we’re going through these with the pop stars singing legit songs, is that they’re used to singing these very short phrases and…

Lindsay: Mm-hmm.

Craig: And these shows, I Don’t Know How to Love Him, that’s actually quite a long phrase to have to sing with a held note, and she clearly can’t do it. She just doesn’t have the breath control to do it, and I think that’s a problem.

Lindsay: Agreed. I think that’s all I have to say.

Craig: [Laughs] That’s all I have on her because she…

Lindsay: Yeah…

Craig: It was really so similar to Nick Jonas, is that she had very poor storytelling skills.

Lindsay: Really, you know? It’s like, I think that’s really the secret to musical theatre. Here we have learning moment: You want to know how to sing musical theatre and you’re not a singer? Learn to be a storyteller with your voice.

Craig: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Lindsay: If you can’t hold the notes, you should be telling me a story. There is a story in every line, I think, in musical theatre, and I’m finding that particularly in listening to these two songs.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

Lindsay: It’s character sharing story, character sharing emotion.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

Lindsay: And that is your doorway to singing musical theatre, not pop licks but story.

Craig: Yeah, and it should be similar to singing any song, and I don’t understand why those two people who have so much experience singing songs in front of an audience don’t know how to tell a story. I think they’re trying to do another style rather than taking the style that they’re comfortable with and applying it to that style. Does that make sense?

Lindsay: I think so. And what’s really funny is that in any interview I’ve ever seen with Melanie, what’s her name, C—Chisholm I think her name is—is that on and on, over and over, it’s like, “My songs are personal, my songs are personal, my songs are personal.” Well, then, this song is really personal, you know? This song is incredibly personal for Mary Magdalene. She’s admitting a bunch of stuff that she would never want to admit to another human being. That’s what’s got to come across.

Craig: And this is a dead simple song. If you’re looking to interpret a song, it’s dead simple. Everyone’s been in that situation.

Lindsay: Yeah, you know? I don’t know how to love him. He’s just a guy.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

Lindsay: I’ve been with a lot of guys. What’s different about this guy, you know?

Craig: Mm-hmm. I know. It’s very simple.

Lindsay: It’s not hard. It’s not hard to sing.

Craig: There are a million songs with that same story, and I don’t know why she couldn’t pick up on that.

Lindsay: It’s fascinating. This is just a…it’s a whole fascinating thing, because I think this is just going to become more and more common as, you know…well, and particularly with Broadway becomes more of a “we need these figures to sell.” That’s sort of become the model now…

Craig: Mm-hmm.

Lindsay: …is that you need people who can bring in an audience.

Craig: It’s a rare Broadway musical these days that doesn’t have a known name in the title…

Lindsay: Mm-hmm.

Craig: …like a celebrity, a TV star, a movie star, a pop star.

Lindsay: Well, and when they do, they don’t…and unfortunately the model is being proven because when they don’t, they don’t really succeed.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

Lindsay: Alright, our third video is Ricky Martin, who played Che Guevara in the most recent remount of Evita on Broadway. And the song we listened to is And the Money Kept Rolling In, and [laughs] I read a couple of reviews of the show, and what most said was that he does all the steps and he hits all the notes. But there’s just nothing. There’s nothing there.

Craig: I found this one to be I think the most fascinating one of all.

Lindsay: Oh, do tell!

Craig: Because this is a guy, again, who has performed on the largest stages there are in the world. He had the biggest hit song for like probably a year.

Lindsay: I’ll bet you even longer.

Craig: Yeah. She Bangs, Livin’ La Vida Loca, those songs were huge.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Craig: And those songs were big crazy dance songs that were, you know, loose and lucid, and it’s crazy. Livin’ La Vida Loca. Living the crazy life, right?

Lindsay: Yeah.

Craig: So, craziness. And this is that same song. This is Livin’ La Vida Loca.

Lindsay: [Laughs]

Craig: This song, right?

Lindsay: [Laughs]

Craig: And he is so stiff in it.

Lindsay: Oh.

Craig: I don’t understand. He moves like an animatronic at Disney World.

Lindsay: Yes, very much so.

Craig: He twists at the hip and moves his arms stiffly, and he looks completely terrified of making any mistake whatsoever or deviating from the choreography in any way, and it gives him such a stiff appearance. And this is a song about letting loose, throwing money to poor people.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Craig: There are all sort of craziness going on that’s not supposed to be happening.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Craig: And he’s just kind of standing there and counting beats in his head. You can see him counting.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Craig: Okay, and here’s another weird one. Is it just me or does he seem to be struggling with doing an Hispanic accent?

Lindsay: [Laughs] I didn’t get that. I just got how difficult the whole thing was for him.

Craig: Well, the words come out of his mouth so pronouncedly that he…

Lindsay: Yes, they do.

Craig: Yeah, and I think he’s trying to do a…

Lindsay: He’s saying [00:14:03] “rol-ling.”

Craig: Yeah.

Lindsay: He’s not saying “rollin’.”

Craig: Yeah. It’s weird.

Lindsay: So what I find all three so far really have in common is that I am seeing Nick Jonas, I am seeing Mel C, and I am seeing Ricky Martin. I am not seeing Marius, I am not seeing Mary Magdalene, and I’m certainly not seeing Che. And that is where I think more than anything these three hit the mark, or lose the mark or miss the mark. What’s the phrase, Craig? [Laughs]

Craig: Miss the mark.

Lindsay: I will forgive a missed note, I will forgive a flubbed piece of choreography, if I can see a character and I can feel their heart and I am connecting to what they’re trying to fling from the stage towards me at the audience.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

Lindsay: And what I want is I want to forget my favorite experiences—and this is across the board in theatre or movies or TV—when I forget that that person who I am seeing on stage or screen or whatever is not real and they’re actors and they go home and they do other things, that I am in their world intensely.

Craig: Mm-hmm. I feel like he just has no understanding of why he’s there and what the purpose of this particular song is. It’s like when you watch little kids doing dance moves. They’re doing them because that’s what their teacher told them to do. Absolutely bizarre for a guy who has performed Latin music onstage for over a decade at least. No, since he was born. He was a member of Menudo when he was a kid.

Lindsay: He was a member of Menudo.

Craig: So this guy knows Latin music. He should know all the shapes that his body should be taking. It makes no sense that he’s just so stiff and looks so out of place.

Lindsay: Yeah. It’s fascinating.

Craig: It’s bizarre that they can’t extract what it is that they’re good at and put it into just something…

Lindsay: A new context.

Craig: …only slightly different.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Craig: And it’s even kind of a pop song.

Lindsay: Yes. Well, yes, it’s got the rhythms and the flavor of it. It doesn’t even sound that difficult to sing. Like it just is…

Craig: Yeah.

Lindsay: It’s baffling.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

Lindsay: So the last one I specifically chose because I read that Reba McEntire got very good reviews for playing Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun. So the song that we listened to was I Got Lost in His Arms, and what did you think of Reba’s performance?

Craig: Of the four?

Lindsay: Yes.

Craig: It was way by far the best performance of the four.

Lindsay: You know what I thought? I thought she was a woman in love.

Craig: Yeah.

Lindsay: And, [laughs] well, it shouldn’t be this hard to…

Craig: No.

Lindsay: She’s actually singing with emotion.

Craig: No, she did what the three others didn’t. She took her genre, country music…

Lindsay: Yup.

Craig: …and what she knew about it…

Lindsay: And really applied it.

Craig: …the torch songs, all that type of thing, and applied it to this song. This song is just basically a torch song. She didn’t make it sound country, but you could tell that that’s where her roots are. And I thought it worked beautifully.

Lindsay: It’s a perfect match, actually, to have Reba McEntire be Annie Oakley.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

Lindsay: You know, like the world of the character fits her very well.

Craig: But I think on paper, all those other three, it made sense on paper to put them in too.

Lindsay: Oh, you know what?

Craig: Yeah.

Lindsay: It makes total sense for Ricky Martin to be Che Guevara.

Craig: Yeah.

Lindsay: It makes total sense on paper. Like it makes total sense that he would move well. It makes total sense that he would have a [00:17:35] to him, you know? And I just can’t imagine what that first rehearsal was like when they saw what they got. And I thought this performance from Reba McEntire was charming.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

Lindsay: And I thought that I could actually see a spark in her eye, you know? I know it was the lights. Who cares? It gave me a glow. And I felt that the smile on her face was in her voice.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

Lindsay: And these are really, really simple tools, you know, like take the world that you do well in, and how can you apply it to a new kind of singing, a new world so that you’re not terrified onstage? If you can’t hit the notes, well then you better hit the character. You better hit the storytelling. You better know exactly what it is you’re singing and just convey that, and I think you’d be amazed about how an audience will lap it up.

Craig: Oh, I think…see Ricky Martin, for example. If he just said, “Screw this choreography, screw these notes,” and just ran around the stage and just expressed what is being expressed in that song…

Lindsay: Yes.

Craig: …while he was singing, we would have loved it more.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Craig: It’s not about perfection. He was trying to hit perfection, but he was never going to hit perfection. But it’s about character story, it’s about the intention, it’s about the narrative of the song, and again, I don’t understand why they can’t get that.

Lindsay: It’s fascinating.

Craig: Because they’re not even trying to get that.

Lindsay: No. No, I know. No. Okay, well, that was a very exciting…

Craig: Thank you.

Lindsay: That was a very exciting first YouTube Fireside Chat of the…

Craig: Yeah. If you gave that list beforehand…

Lindsay: Yeah.

Craig: …before I saw the… Well, you gave me the list beforehand.

Lindsay: I did.

Craig: I thought I knew what I would think, and I don’t think…I saw something completely different in everybody.

Lindsay: Well, what did you think you were going to hear?

Craig: Well, I had seen Ricky Martin before. I didn’t remember how bad it was. I would have thought it was better.

Lindsay: Okay.

Craig: Nick Jonas, I’ve been working on that big Nick Jonas theory for quite a while…

Lindsay: [Laughs]

Craig: …so I guess that was fine. But Mel C I thought would be able to sing a torch song.

Lindsay: Right.

Craig: And Reba McEntire, I thought it was just going to be kind of a country thing and I wouldn’t be able to escape who I thought she was because she’s so iconic.

Lindsay: Right. We can all be surprised.

Craig: Yeah, I was.

Lindsay: Awesome.

Craig: Thank you for putting that together.

Lindsay: Alright, thank you so much. Alright. Now, before we go, let’s do some Theatrefolk news.

[Sings] It’s a Play Feature! It’s a Play Feature! It’s time to feature a play! See, I’m going to make that a jingle yet. Okay, so here’s a play that has it all for someone looking for a small cast challenge. It’s called Have You Heard? by Krista Boehnert and it is a monologue play. What does that mean? Well, there is a story, and the play has a distinct beginning, middle and end, but the story is told through monologue. So we have each character speaks in monologue throughout the whole play.

The theme of the play is secrets and lies, a student lies about the sexual advances of a teacher and how that spins out of control. What makes a secret more powerful, when it’s a truth or when it’s a lie? Heavy stuff. But what makes Krista’s writing great is that she knows she has to balance the dark with the light. So here is a monologue from Have You Heard? The character is Jake.

Does a white lie really count in the grand scheme of things? There’s like your Big Whopper lies and your middle of the road lies and everything in between, but does the white lie count against your rap sheet? I mean, the white lie, by definition, is only told if you are trying to be polite. Like when you go to Aunt Ester’s for supper and she serves up headcheese and asks you if you like it, and you say, “I love headcheese.” You might be saving Auntie’s feelings, but you could also potentially be eating headcheese at her house from now on, now that she thinks it’s your favorite. Now that’s a white lie that can kick you in the butt!”

But what about when you tell a white lie and it truly spares the feeling of another person and brings no harm unto yourself? Does it still count as a lie? Are you off the hook? I think the trick is to use the white lies when they’ll have the greatest impact. Like when my girl asks me, “Do you ever look at other girls?” and I say, “No way! You’re the most beautiful girl in the world. Why would I look anywhere else?”

That’s Have you Heard? Head over to, read the sample pages, buy a copy. Do it.

Lastly, where, oh where can you find this podcast? We post new episodes every Wednesday at and on our Facebook page and Twitter. You can find us on You can find us on the Stitcher app, and you can subscribe to TFP on iTunes. All you have to do is search on the word Theatrefolk.

And that’s where we’re going to end. Come on back next week. Take care my friends. Take care.


Music credit: “Ave” by Alex (feat. Morusque) is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

About the author

Lindsay Price