EdFringe 2018 Review: The Voice Behind the Stars

The Voice Behind the Stars

Marni Nixon may not be a name that is immediately apparent to most people, yet her voice undoubtedly will be. Eliza Jackson stars in this one-woman show that pays tribute to Nixon’s career and relives the many iconic songs which she contributed to.

Although initially recounting Nixon’s early life in an incredibly musical family, The Voice Behind the Stars spends most of its time focussing on the height of the ‘ghost vocalist’s’ career where Nixon was the singing voice behind some of the silver screen’s most iconic leading ladies - who were somewhat musically challenged.

Opening with a rendition of Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend – a reference to Nixon’s mother having to pawn her diamond engagement ring to pay for the performer’s singing lessons, The Voice Behind the Stars soon dips into her dubbing work on The King and I. Interestingly Jackson’s voice sounds identical to Deborah Kerr’s – or more appropriately –Marni Nixon who sang Kerr’s numbers in the smash hit film musical. She sings with the chipper, spirited style that many performers of the time opted for, as she gracefully delivers Getting to Know You and I Whistle a Happy Tune. Anecdotes about Kerr and Nixon’s relationship provide some engaging nostalgic Hollywood fun also.

Interesting titbits about working as Audrey Hepburn’s vocalist and the press scandal of doing so in My Fair Lady gives the film some dramatic weight, whilst also allowing for an impressive rendition of Wouldn’t It Be Lovely. Perhaps the most interesting anecdote comes from Nixon’s time working on West Side Story with the brattish and musically-averse Natalie Wood which taps into some good old-fashioned Hollywood gossip whilst paving the way for a version of I Feel Pretty. This comprehensive account of Nixon’s career also dips into Nixon’s friendship with Julie Andrews – the result of her only credited screen role as Sister Sophia in The Sound of Music.

The Voice Behind the Stars shines thanks to Jackson’s impressive performance. Whilst Nixon will undoubtedly be a figure that is new to many people, it is clear from the nuances and vocals of the lead performance that she has committed a vast amount of research and passion to the role. This subsequently feels like a lovely tribute to Nixon, a talented woman who brought joy to millions, yet most of these people have no concept of who she was. A rendition of Never Enough from The Greatest Showman attempts to convey that ghost vocalists are still very much prevalent in the industry – but thanks to the work of Nixon, must receive some form of credit or fair payment for their work.

The Voice Behind the Stars blends Hollywood nostalgia with immaculately performed musical numbers to pay tribute to a woman who never quite got her dues.
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