With tickets for The Circle of Life available starting Monday, February 6th, we decided to sit down with Rolando Sanz, our Artistic Director, to ask him more about the production from an inside-look! 

What are you finding most interesting about the music that you're working on right now with ?

What's cool about this production that we're putting together with Hugh Wooldridge is that it showcases the lyrics from Tim Rice's greatest shows. It's very different putting a show like this together than producing a full book musical like we've done in the past. We are now actually having to create the material between the selections. So we're crafting the flow of the prodution from beginning to end, along with Hugh, who is devising and directing the show. 

Do you see a difference in some of Rice's earlier work versus some of his later work?

The early work, namely Joseph (and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) and Jesus Christ Superstar are very rock-based because that's kind of the world where Tim Rice came from. He and Andrew Lloyd Webber had that in common. These early shows are the Andrew Lloyd Webber years of course. And the material is so rich that it makes up all of Part One in our production.

Part Two our production goes into the second phase of Sir Tim's collaborations with Elton John as well as his work for Disney. This material is different in that Sir Tim worked with new composers, which of course influenced his writing. As a result, the lyrics he wrote for his shows with Andrew when he was younger are very different than the ones for Lion King or Beauty and the Beast. So yes, there is a difference and it's fascinating to see the development of this great lyricist from his youth into a  true master of his craft.

So is there any of this music that's tougher for our kids to sing?

No not necessarily tougher. The style is different. The rock music style is new-ish for many of our YAA musicians. And rock music is of course the backbone of Tim Rice's work -- especially with scores like Chess, Aida and Superstar. So our kids are having to master a different style, but they know how to do it. If anything the faculty is having to learn how to effective teach a different style of music!           

What is it like to be an opera singer and coaching kids in rock?

Personally, I'm finding I am having to learn how to efficiently and healthfully teach the rock vocabulary. If anything, being an opera singer is helping me teach them how to best put this music in their voices without straining themselves, which is very tempting in this style of rock singing.

So what are some tips you can give our students so they don't vocally strain themselves?

There's a different way for approaching the belt in women, for example. There are many different ways to sing a straight tone in the middle of your voice where a lot of this music is written. One of the ways to accomplish this sound is to bring your chest voice as high up as possible. And we hear that a lot. That's how Idina Menzel sings...very successfully. But what we're teaching the girls, for example, is that it's possible to find a really forward placement in the middle of their voice and not necessarily bring up all the chest voice. So it's a very forward-placed mixed sound that actually sounds like they're belting, and matches like the rock style, but that they can achieve over and over successfully without straining their voice.