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The Voice Behind the Stars at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018

The Voice Behind the StarsA brief review of a brief show. This is an affirmation for those in the audience old enough to remember when motion pictures like The Sound of Music (1965) were first released, confirmation for those who had read up about Marni Nixon (1930-2016) (Eliza Jackson) or were otherwise already acquainted with her work, and a wonderful introduction to her life and career for those, like me, who only really knew sketchy details. The Voice Behind The Stars explains why I only knew sketchy details – so much of her work was uncredited.

It helps that Jackson has a versatile and wonderful singing voice, as the audience is treated to live performances of many songs where Nixon’s voice was used, dubbed over another actress. There is even a microphone and headphones on stage, as though that section of the performance space was a recording studio. The sheet music was probably there ‘just in case’ more than anything else, but nonetheless added to the authenticity of the re-enacted recordings. Also on stage is a collection of vinyl records, which Jackson periodically looks through in order to select the next piece of music to be discussed.

Nixon has certainly left a legacy: a ground-breaking deal struck with Leonard Bernstein, composer of West Side Story (1961), eventually led to singers whose voices are used in motion pictures to be included in the list of credits, and to be remunerated for their services accordingly. I can understand dubbing being used for the purposes of translating a film into different languages, so films can be appreciated in non-English speaking countries, but I would have thought in this day and age, where authenticity continues to be all the rage, filmmakers would just cast people who can sing well in the first place. The talent is certainly out there.

Nope. Rebecca Ferguson plays the opera singer Jenny Lind in The Greatest Showman (2017), but it is the voice of singer Loren Allred that can be heard on ‘Never Enough’, a tune which Jackson closes the show with. Jackson has a warm and engaging manner, and the show provides plenty of detail about what went on during the filming of the motion pictures Nixon was involved with. Natalie Wood was apparently “a piece of work”. Make of that what you will. As for The Voice Behind The Stars itself, it’s a well-researched and well-performed production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Comaweng

This one-woman show tells the story of the most prolific ghost singer of all time, Marni Nixon: the best film diva you (almost) never saw. Dubbing for over 50 Hollywood films, she was the singing voice for stars such as Audrey Hepburn, Deborah Kerr, Natalie Wood and Marilyn Monroe. Featuring much-loved tunes from West Side Story, My Fair Lady and The King and I, this show is not to be missed.

In a classic story of old Hollywood, Marni Nixon had to sign her life away. She was forbidden from telling anyone who or what films she sang on. Luckily for her, Deborah Kerr (The King & I, An Affair to Remember), who she dubbed for extensively, ‘accidentally’ spilled the beans about Marni. ‘It happened last night!’, ‘Deborah tells a secret’ – these headlines lead to interviews with all the papers and even Time Magazine. But despite all of this notoriety, her work as the ‘ghostess with the mostess(t)’ is still mostly unknown.

Marni spent her whole dubbing career struggling for credit and royalties. She was paid only $420 for her work on The King and I, which is still one of the top-selling albums of all time. After a long battle, she was gifted a quarter of a percent by Leonard Bernstein himself for her work as Maria’s singing voice on West Side Story.

Because of this, all ghost singers to this day must be credited and awarded royalty points accordingly. Marni went on to star in Broadway shows, sing for Liberace, tour the world and host an Emmy award-winning kids show, but she only ever had one onscreen credit – The Sound of Music, where she plays Sister Sophia. Marni Nixon is played by Australian actress/singer Eliza Jackson.

Eliza Jackson presents
The Voice Behind the Stars
August 2nd-12th, 14th-26th
14:00 (1 hr)
Assembly Rooms (Venue 20)


1 thought on “The Voice Behind the Stars at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018”

  1. Ms Jackson presents a tour de force performance. Stunning voice and telling a truly inspirational story. Magical.

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