Musical theatre star Rebecca Caine has claimed that a “fashion for belting” has led to a more generic sound in shows.
Caine, a soprano who originated the role of Cosette in Les Misérables, described herself as classically trained and “old-school legit”, but said shows no longer created parts for women with similar voices.
“Vocally they don’t really exist for me because women my age are stereotypically not supposed to sound like I do – the fashion is for belters. But I am my age, and I don’t belt and I sound like this, so I don’t see why that can’t be represented,” she told The Stage.
She said that “vibrato in the voice” was now seen as old-fashioned, and added that the voice had been previously used to distinguish characters in productions, such as “the convent-educated Cosette and the street urchin Eponine” in Les Misérables.
“Belting is fashionable and vibrato in the voice is seen as sounding old – which in some ways is a shame, as vibrato is like a snowflake, or fingerprint – everyone’s is a slightly different speed and it defines a voice in a way,” she said.
She added: “Now everyone is taught to belt as it makes you more employable, but what we lose is the quality that defines those two different sounds. What I hear now is a more generic sound, and you can’t tell the difference between two characters. I think it’s very sad to lose that.”
Caine said she was not criticising the next generation of musical stars but that, by training people to belt and sing the lower register, the sound “loses an innocence” and musical theatre became more “generic”.
“A lot of people in my generation were’t technically as well-founded as the kids coming out of training today, but you could shut your eyes and know it was Sally Ann Triplett or Frances Ruffelle singing. You could tell the voices apart,” she added.
Caine is about to star in the musical Preludes , which will run at Southwark Playhouse in London.
She said the role appealed because it gave the chance to play “an intelligent character who drives the narrative” and said such roles for older women did not exist.
“A lot of the time, the narrative put on a woman of my age is about being older, instead of just telling a story,” she said.
She also criticised the progression for women in musical theatre.
“The men playing Marius go on to play Valjean, and the Raouls play Phantom, but you don’t get that progression with women. It’s hags, bags, witches and bitches and there is no extraordinary role for women to step into,” she said.