Written by  Dennis Kucherawy
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The temperature's rising,  It isn't surprising,  Michelle certainly can can-can!!

In the classic hit musical My Fair Lady, Professor Henry Higgins bet Colonel Pickering that after six months of teaching proper English to Cockney flower girl Eliza Dolittle, he could pass her off as a duchess at an Embassy Ball.

By comparison, within a month New York-based musician David Krane coached Michelle Williams and vocally transformed the former star of TV’s Dawson Creek and the critically acclaimed and controversial Brokeback Mountain into Marilyn Monroe.  Her scintillating performance as the sultry screen legend in My Week with Marilyn (opening nationwide this Friday), has inspired early Oscar nomination buzz.

No stranger to Toronto, David Krane is a Composer/Arranger for Broadway, TV and Film.  Among his many credits are dance music and additional score adaptation for the Oscar-winning movie, Chicago, and all new music arrangements with additional score adaptation for the film adaptation of the musical, Nine. Both films were directed by Rob Marshall, one of Hollywood’s top movie directors.

Toronto world premiere musicals:

“the most satisfying creative experiences I’ve ever had

In Toronto, he wrote dance arrangements for many of musical stage hits of the 1990s including the world premieres of Kiss of the Spider Woman, Show Boat and Ragtime.  “My times working in Toronto were some of the best of my life,” he said recently in an exclusive “Song & Script” e-mail interview. “To start with Kiss at the Bluma Appel, then the thrill of opening the North York Performing Arts Centre with the most thrilling production of Show Boat with that amazing cast, the inspiring Hal Prince and Susan Stroman’s brilliant dances, the nurturing of Ragtime from reading to a fully realized, emotionally stirring production…they are the most satisfying creative experiences I’ve had.”

In My Week with Marilyn, directed by Simon Curtis, David not only served as the 31-year-old Williams’ vocal coach, he also produced and wrote musical arrangements for the film’s opening and closing numbers:  “When Love Goes Wrong, Nothin’ Goes Right”/”Heat Wave” and “That Old Black Magic.”

Williams was 10 years old the last time she sang and danced onstage

Williams recently told “” that she was neither a singer nor a dancer.  The last time she did both onstage was 21 years ago when she was 10.  “In some ways,” she admitted, “because of that I felt I was able to put the nerves aside.  I really felt a tremendous outpouring of joy—like a little girl whose dreams came true for the first time.”

“Originally,” David explained, “I was brought in to explore the possibility of whether Michelle could sing and dance.  “The movie had finished shooting at the end of last year, but (producer) Harvey Weinstein thought Marilyn should be seen in `her element,’ when she was totally assured and happy, in a musical, performing in context.  It was something that was lacking in the film.

“I thought that Michelle didn’t imitate but actually embodied Marilyn”

“His office sent me clips of the real Marilyn and a rough cut of My Week with Marilyn.  I absolutely adored the film and thought that Michelle didn’t imitate but actually embodied Marilyn.

“When I told Harvey that, he asked me to make sure to tell Michelle, as she was unsure how well she had done.  She was thrilled when I told her minutes after meeting her.  She gave me the most wonderful hug.”

MwwM2The day before David and his colleagues began working with her, they decided to stage and film “When Love Goes Wrong, Nothin’ Goes Right,” originally a duet Monroe performed with Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and “Heat Wave” from There’s No Business Like Show Business as both films pre-dated the 1956 setting of My Week with Marilyn.

“Harvey was very clear that “When Love Goes Wrong” / “Heatwave” should not sound like a Broadway style arrangement,” David pointed out.  “He wanted it to sound more jazzy and sexy.  While we prepared, one of the film clips he had us study was one of Brigitte Bardot dancing to conga drums in the film And God Created Woman, in her bare feet with an unbridled, sensual energy.

“It was unclear where this dance number would appear in the film.  One idea was that it might be a rehearsal or performance from a USO concert in London, or as an opening number, the idea we did use.  At one point, there was the possibility of filming two versions—one of a rehearsal, the other a performance.  But, as it developed, the idea of opening the film with it and having the audience see Colin (played by Eddie Redmayne) be smitten by her as he watched her on-screen in a London cinema, was perfect.”

Williams and Krane worked together for three weeks before shooting.  “It was really two,” he explained, “as she had to go to Detroit to start work on the 3D film Oz: The Great and Powerful, scheduled for release in 2013.  “In her desire to keep working with me, I flew there for a few days before we left for London to work with her.  I was on the last plane before Hurricane Irene hit NYC last August!”

David and Michelle clicked instantly:  “Michelle was warm and direct and simply wonderful from the start,” David reminisced.  “Harvey introduced me to her as a `Marilyn Monroe’ expert, as I had impressed him with my knowledge of her work and career.”

They worked about four to five hours a day, watching videos together of Marilyn’s performances.  “As I worked with Michelle, coaching her from an acting standpoint rather than concentrating on vocal technique, her lovely, natural voice—which she had never before used—developed quickly because of her great pitch and innate musicality.

Singing … “a line reading in time”

“It was a great pleasure to coach her on the emotional intent, teaching her how to learn to use her breath to fuel her thought.  I like to tell actors that singing is simply `a line reading in time,’ and that one should never sing just for its own sake, but to learn to project a fully clear and focused desire through the music.

“I carefully coached her…so that her voice was colored by her thought…”

“She asked me if I thought she should try to imitate Marilyn’s singing voice.  I asked her not to think about imitating but embodying her as she did in the film.  She should channel Marilyn through her voice, I suggested, and just think about breathing.  Then, I carefully and meticulously coached her with every phrase, imparting the emotional and psychological meaning as it pertained to Marilyn so that her voice was colored by her thought.”

Williams’ voice is a little lower than Monroe’s, by a step, David said:  “The breathiness of Monroe’s voice had to do with emotion.  I always would have Michelle sing in her bare feet to connect sensually and to practice to learn how to focus on a microphone—which, at first, was a water bottle—so that she could begin to learn microphone technique.  I made sure that she also recorded in her bare feet.  I also asked for there to be a sexy rug for her to stand on and made sure the lighting added to the ambience.  As the producer of these two numbers, I happily was in charge of all of these elements.  I also placed myself in the room near her, and handled the session from inside the studio, rather than the control booth.”

Harvey Weinstein was so thrilled by the incredible progress she made under Krane’s tutelage that he asked him to write another arrangement for her to sing under the closing credits.  They chose “That Old Black Magic” which Monroe had only sung in character in the movie Bus Stop as the musically-challenged Southern saloon singer Cherie.  It was never sung well by Marilyn in any other context.  It was the perfect song to encapsulate the romantic longing of her life, when, as David says, Marilyn was `under its spell, down, down, down I go.’ She thought each time she fell in love, that the enchantment was going to complete her, he said.

“I decided to set `That Old Black Magic’ in a way none had ever done

…very sexy…”

“I listened to virtually 100 versions of “Black Magic,” then decided to set it in a way that no one had ever done:  a very sexy, longing bossa nova, ending very introspectively.

“Michelle loved it immediately, as did Harvey.  When we were shooting the opening dance number in London, he made the decision to shoot it for the film.  It was thrilling to see the music come to visual life, rather than just hear it under the closing credits”

Krane has worked with many of the finest talents in showbiz including Julie Andrews, Meryl Streep, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Carol Burnett, Queen Latifah, Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters, Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera.  However, he proudly asserts that Michelle Williams is “one of the most gifted actors I’ve ever worked with, and that’s saying a great deal.

“Williams’ Marilyn is like no other”

“Her work ethic was amazing,” he continued, “as there was no detail too small.  She absorbed everything she was taught, both dancing and singing.  She rehearsed happily and intensively.  She had this lovely, dormant talent that was unlocked.  She adores to work and told us she was having the time of her life with us.  We’ve become quite close friends as a result of this experience.  She would like to sing more in the future.”

Krane believes Williams’ performance is definitive:  “Michelle has the ability to learn, plan and then focus her performance on transformation.

“That is why her Marilyn is like no other.”

Dennis Kucherawy

My Week with Marilyn original soundtrack recording available at Song & Script.

Last modified on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 23:55
Dennis Kucherawy

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