By Marion Filler
Kelly Miller is not a singing waitress. But there must be something special about how she recites the specials of the day.
“A lot of people have picked up on my voice and ask ‘Are you a singer?’ It just comes up in conversation,” says Miller, who takes special care of her voice when working at Arthur’s Steak House in Morris Plains.
“I try to speak like I sing,” explains the Morristown Onstage 2019 finalist.
Miller knows what’s she’s talking about: She teaches a voice class at the County College of Morris and gives private lessons. Still, talking over the crowd at Arthur’s is a never-ending challenge.
“It’s a busy restaurant and it can be very loud, so I constantly have to think about it and use proper vocal technique when I’m speaking, so I don’t hurt my voice… if I take care of it, I should have it into my 80s,” says Miller, who is in her late 20s.
She will show off that voice on Feb. 27, 2019, when she competes against 14 other top amateur performers from Greater Morristown at the Mayo Performing Arts Center.
More than 50 acts auditioned for this 12th edition of Morristown Onstage, a fundraiser for the Morris School District that aims to top last year’s record of $143,000.
The competition is open to amateur performers who live, work or study in Morristown, Morris Township or Morris Plains, and to graduates of Morristown High School.
Miller earned an undergraduate degree in classical performance at New York University, and a masters in opera performance at Rutgers.
She has performed at both schools, and at Carnegie Hall, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and the International Vocal Arts Institute, a summer school for young artists sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera.
Broadway is always a possibility. Miller notes there have been many crossovers from opera to the Great White Way. Kristin Chenoweth and Patti Lupone are prime examples.
“Kristin did a beautiful job with Candide, an operetta, and sang that high E,” Miller recounts.
Kelli O’Hara did the reverse, starring on Broadway before performing in The Merry Widow, Dido and Aeneas and, last year, in Cosi fan Tutte.
Operatic performances are rare at Morristown Onstage, and Miller’s choice is even more daring.
She will sing Nessun Dorma, an aria from Turandot. The aria was written for a male tenor, not Miller’s normal range.
“I have a lighter, brighter voice, so I can’t do these roles forever,” Miller days. “But I love the song. It’s not a song that I typically sing, but I think it’s a great way to get people interested in the opera because it’s so beautiful. There are so many people who don’t know opera, but they know that song.”
And soon, they will know Kelly Miller.
Fifteen top amateur acts from Greater Morristown will compete for cash and glory in the 12th annual Morristown Onstage, on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, at the Mayo Performing Arts Center. Tickets: $29-$79. Proceeds benefit the Morris Educational Foundation. Call 973-539-8008.