Billboard on Broadway Podcast: Behind the Scenes of Stage & Screen With Vocal Coach Liz Caplan

Liz Caplan
Courtesy Photo

Liz Caplan

Chat long enough with any singing star of Broadway or the big screen, and there's one name they're all likely to mention with the utmost reverence and gratitude: Liz Caplan. A vocal coach of 40 years, Caplan has developed a unique method of incorporating not only the voice, but an actor's entire body and being, which has won her legions of adoring students, including some of the biggest names in musical theater and film, such as Ben Platt, Neil Patrick Harris and Hugh Jackman, among many others. Along with her one-on-one students, Caplan has also become a go-to vocal consultant for Broadway productions, presently including the new musical of Disney's Frozen. Needless to say, she's one of the busiest women in theater, but she took a break one recent afternoon to stop by the Billboard on Broadway podcast.

"Somewhere in the back of my head, I wanted to help every other artist understand how their instrument worked," says Caplan of her beginnings in teaching voice. She was also once a performer, and her own voice lessons "made me think about how the whole body has to help the sound." She began developing her own technique once she realized that "feeling mindful of your whole body as a breathing organism" was intrinsic to producing sound in an effective and healthy way. Her growing student body came to see why her approach worked fairly quickly. "People gave it a shot and mostly they felt they didn't have to work as hard to make sound when other parts of their body were helping propel the oxygen they needed," she explains.

Caplan says she has always enjoyed absorbing a diverse range of music, and that kind of open mind is essential in her line of work. "I try to keep listening to all different song styles," she says, "so when someone says, 'I'm writing a score in the style of Charlie Puth,' I'd be able to say, 'OK, I get the gist of what you're writing and how you want it delivered.'" She also admits that, as important as technique itself is, most of her job "is being a really good listener, and being by nature an empathetic person."

In her lively conversation with host Rebecca Milzoff, Caplan discusses what she learned early on from Barbra Streisand, what it was like to turn Harris into a punk rocker, working with a young Ariana Grande, and why Broadway stars shouldn't be eating pizza, among much more.