My Top 5 Contemporary Group Numbers and Why You Should Sing Them
Singing in an ensemble is one of the most important skills a musical theatre actor can have. It’s pretty easy to sing by yourself; you only have to listen for your part and maybe a counter-melody in the accompaniment. But being able to hold a harmony in a multi-person song can be challenging if you’re not used to it—yet it’s an essential part of any musical! Those big group numbers couldn’t happen if cast members were unable to harmonize. Below I’ve collected just a few of my favorite contemporary group numbers. Check them out and challenge yourself to learn something other than the melody!
1. I Sing of Artemis (The Daughters)
This intensely beautiful song by Shaina Taub is my number one favorite. The harmonies are very tightly wound and the song requires four women with big ranges, both low and high. It’s got an earthy, primal sense to it and there are very few groups that have tackled the song successfully. The video I’ve included below features Taylor Bass, Anna Betteridge, Laura Kaye Chamberlain, and Audrey Ney from LIU Post. Their choreography, by Anna Betteridge, shows off some of the Suzuki training that LIU Post is known for.
Audrey Ney, Taylor Bass, Anna Betteridge, and Laura Chamberlain
2. Mama Who Bore Me (Reprise) (Spring Awakening)
With the brand new revival of Deaf West’s Spring Awakening, now is a great time to try out this girl-power ensemble piece. Having sung it myself, I can tell you that the middle harmony is both challenging and, once you learn it, really fun to sing! The great thing about this song is that you can do it with as few as four people or expand it into a huge group number. Lock down those harmonies and rock out! You’ll also notice that in any Youtube clips of this number, the choreography is kept super simple. This song has such a powerful message on top of a powerful melody that it doesn’t need fancy movement to get the point across.
Emma Barishman, Emily Locklear, Emily Whipple, Diamond White from LIU Post
3. Crazytown (35MM)
Looking to test your rhythm skills? Jump into Crazytown by Ryan Scott Oliver. To pull off this song successfully, you have to master the minute harmonies that come in the form of beat boxing, humming, and singing. Each line is woven intricately through the others, overlapping in inexplicable but aurally pleasing ways. This video, featuring Jay Armstrong Johnson (and his hair!), Alex Brightman, Lindsay Mendez, and Natalie Weiss, is one that you’ll want to watch over and over. Word of warning, it’s not a totally PG-13 song lyrically so be aware of your audience.
Alex Brightman with Jay Armstrong Johnson, Lindsay Mendez, and Natalie Weiss
Calling all funny people! This hilarious five-some about having a threesome (by Carner & Gregor and Drew Fornarola) will challenge your comedic timing and memorization skills. Two main characters search through each other’s ideas of who they could bring into the bedroom to spice things up. That leaves room for three of their ideas to come to life, making cameos and each singing a fragment about how awesome they would be in the bedroom. As it turns out, none of them are the right fit – but boy is it a fun journey to follow!
Aja Goes, John Battagliese, Celia Hottenstein, Dan Gershaw, and Holland Mariah Grossman
5. Hungover (Next Thing You Know)
The great thing about Salzman and Cunningham’s writing in this song is that it’s made for you to sing lazily. In order to do that, you have to get it right first and then throw the drunkenness on top of the singing. But it wouldn’t be nearly as fun if you sang it straight, so make sure you layer everything into it before you perform! I love the connection between the four characters and how the song rises and falls. This might be a good song for people trying out ensemble singing for the first time because it’s a lot of individual singing and unison sections. The end gets into harmony but it’s slower and more drawn out so you’d have a chance to find your pitch more easily.
Lauren Blackman, Adam Kantor, Andrew Kober and Kate Rockwell
What are your favorite group songs to listen to or sing?
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