VERSIONS, VOL. 7: “Perfect” by Benj Pasek & Justin Paul

So, we all know how much time I spend tinkering around the internet – particularly, that vast vortex we all get sucked into known as YouTube. If you guys think I’m a YouTube junkie now, I was even more so back in my early college days. As I’ve written all winter, it’s because of these many meanderings across the intergalactic interwebs that I have come across many a video. One other such video is the one below, which features a performance of “Perfect” by Whitney Bashor:

Watch this video on YouTube.

The song is a selection taken from Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s Edges: A Song Cycle. Edges first found life when the NMT composers were students at the University of Michigan. The show would soon find its legs, first premiering at the Kerrytown Concert House in 2005, later spawning various productions around the world, as well as its first professional production at the Capital Repertory Theatre two years later. That production featured Ms. Bashor, along with Farah Alvin, Colin Hanlon and Steven Booth. It was around this time that videos of the production made its way to YouTube and to my own viewing eyes.

The song’s closing lines bring the message loud and clear: “I will be perfect for you.” Here, Whitney Bashor (who can currently be seen on Broadway in The Bridges of Madison County) portrays a girl that is seemingly perfect on the outside. She appears neatly dressed in a sweater set and headband, pocketbook in hand. All seems fine until she utters a word and we see that internally, she doesn’t quite have it together. Bashor is perfect throughout as her character tries to maintain composure; in just a flicker of her eye, or the way she turns around and sits down at the end, we can see every effort her character makes to keep up appearances.

Of course, as the song heads into its breakdown her character finally, well, breaks down, scream-singing in discordant notes:

No one else can take your place.
I am yours and you are mine.
So don’t tell me we need space.
No don’t use that fucking line!
Now you look me in the face, we are going to be fine.

Watch this video on YouTube.

The alternate version of the song, as performed by Vanessa Ray (who appears in Pretty Little Liars and indie flick Frances Ha), has us transitioning from a staged performance to a more concert-style setting (this one from Jake Wilson and Andrew Keenan-Bolger’s The Girly Show cabaret). Despite her pleasant voice-sounding voice, Ms. Ray doesn’t nail the spoken/shouted sequence in quite the same way that Bashor does. Whereas Bashor’s “yells” are still kept in tune with the music, Ray’s veers off, feeling less controlled. Bashor’s performance, to me, feels more appropriate and in keeping with the character the song is about; there has to be a play with duality, and for Ray seems to be struggling with finding that balance. This is all, of course, subjective and my preference may differ from another’s. After all, not every performance can be…well, perfect.

Which performance strikes your fancy?

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