The Impact of Ethel Merman
Ethel Merman is described by PBS as the most successful musical comedy performer of her generation. Merman is known for contributing her loud and clear vocals to the Broadway stage and changing the way that people observed women on Broadway as well (PBS). Appearing and starring in several Broadway blockbusters, her acting career appeared to go through somewhat transitional phases to where she could act less and less like herself in character. Merman left her mark as an entertainer and her voice continues to be a spectacle.
Ethel’s life before Broadway speaks a lot to her career on Broadway. Ethel Agnes Zimmerman was born in the neighborhood of Astoria in New York. Merman showed her love for singing as a child, singing in the church that she went to with her parents. Also, she went to Vaudeville shows to watch stars like Fanny Brice perform (Kenrick). Ethel’s parents believed that she should gain an education because show business was not a viable career choice, especially for women in this period. She became a stenographer but continued to sing as nightclubs in New York for extra money (Kenrick). When her performances began getting recognition and her name more acclaimed, she shortened it to Merman and began performing in the Vaudeville Circuit at the Palace Theater (PBS).
Merman’s first big Broadway musical was in George and Ira Gershwin’s Girl Crazy (1930). She made a noticeable vocal performance, the musical produced songs like, “I Got Rhythm,” in which she belted a C note for sixteen bars, something that audience members had never seen before (Kenrick). Merman’s performance was described mainly a singing performance where her lines were kept to a minimum and she let her voice do all the talking...
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...ain supreme over anybody to follow. It makes a point that she was famous in a time that didn’t require media handlers to create stars; she created herself out of self-confidence (Singer). These are the characteristics of her voice and character that catapulted her into stardom on Broadway.
Overall, Ethel Merman has become a historical figure in Broadway history. She has been maintained as the best and most successful musical comedy performer for her vocals and transitional acting. These attributes gave her the key to working with the most notable producers, script writers and musical producers in the history of Broadway. Her many shows gave her the opportunity to understand herself as a Broadway actress and her voice stands alone to all of the people who followed. Her voice will live on in theater and she will continue to remain a pinnacle of Broadway history.