True to the promise of PalabasTayo as a portal that spotlights the many facets of the arts, the artists, and their quest for perfection, we bring you ARTIST SPOTLIGHT featuring actor, singer and makeup artist, Hayden Tee. He currently plays Agatha Trunchbull in the international tour of Matilda the Musical.
There is a good reason why some music gets labeled “classic” or “standard”. In musical theatre as well as more mainstream music, when a song acquires a history of being either so iconic that no one messes with how they’re arranged and performed, or are considered so notoriously kitschy and dated that no one could figure out what else to do with them to make them sound fresh and new, people normally toss these roles and songs in a bin labeled “standard”. What people often miss is that in categorizing these roles and songs this way discounts their potential, and excludes a rich library of material just begging to be molded into something that is relevant and delightful.
The incomparable Hayden Tee, whose brilliant turn as Javert dazzled critics and audiences across the globe with productions on Broadway, West End, Australia, and Dubai, has released a showstopping album of songs from his best leading roles in Les Miserables, Matilda the Musical, and 1776. Along with other songs from Love Never Dies, Bridges of Madison County, The Secret Garden, among others. The album “Face to Face” is a brilliant example of how an artist’s choices in tackling the role, and the kind of inflections – informed by meticulous research – colors their performance and may offer new layers of nuance previously unseen.
His grand rendition of “Stars”, accompanied by a full symphonic orchestra, manages to sound fuller than it already should, and avoids the usual dogged single-mindedness some actors prefer to play the role of Javert. His clear tenor-baritone goes from certainty to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it vulnerability that hints at the real struggle at the core of the character. This is what makes the character of Javert endlessly fascinating to watch and listen to: The aria is something he tells himself over and over, night after night, to quell and suppress his humanity in favor of his desire for order. This hints at the doubts that serve as the seeds of his later tragedy in the chronology of the show. Tee brings this sensitivity, along with an impressive chameleon-like quality, to all the songs in the album: from the soaring “Till I Hear You Sing”, the pensive and bittersweet “It All Fades Away”, to the clever and hilarious “The Smell of Rebellion”. The last one was doubly delightful as Tee showcases his comedic timing to great effect, and his Trunchbull oscillates with a terrifying and captivating energy.
And the wonderful thing about the album “Face to Face”, is that it’s no flash in the pan: I find that this is the mirror image of his 2009 album “Generation Why? LIVE”, where Tee reframes “classic” pop songs and reimagines them into new dramatically charged forms that serve as small, self-contained narratives. Of particular note is his slightly strange and menacing Radiohead tribute “Creep/I Will Be Watching You”, where the music is reduced to a low thrum, almost as if creating discordant minor chords, peppered with disparate instruments. Pairing this unorthodox arrangement with Tee’s evocative and clear vocals communicate a sense of both a solemn dread and fragile beauty. Other notable tracks from this album includes a lush romantic reimagining of the Buggle’s 70’s hit “Video Killed the Radio Star”, the heartbreaking “You Were There” by the Southern Sons which Tee transforms to a quiet dramatic piece, and a personal favorite: Nena’s “99 Luftballons” sung with a combination of English and the original German lyrics.
These two albums are great examples of a certain type of artistic courage, the courage to challenge previously held ideas about things, and the skill to reforge them into something new. This is the creative engine that propels art forward, not only in the creation of completely new and original work, but to take existing stories, and tell them in different and exciting ways. Until they become classics themselves, and the process starts all over again.
Hayden Tee’s “Face to Face” and “Generation WhY? LIVE” are available for streaming and download on Spotify and Apple Music. You can also catch him in “Matilda the Musical”, running from March 5 to 22, 2020 at the Theatre at Solaire. Tickets available at TicketWorld.