Auditioning Part I: For musicals

In general, I find musical auditions to be more angst-inducing than for plays. For a play, you’re either reading from the script, or you’re preparing a monologue. There are many good monologue books out there, so finding material is not so difficult. Practice it, get it memorized (if required), read the play AT LEAST three times through, and then go do your thing.

But musicals? Yeah. You need, um, music. And maybe dancing. And possibly reading.


So I’m going to focus on the music part.

Things to bring to a musical audition: WATER. Your resume (if you have one). Head shot (again, if you have one). MUSIC, with copies for everyone who needs it. Mark the music. (More on this below) Throat drops. A pencil/pen. If it’s a dance audition, bring dance clothes and shoes (or wear clothes you can move in). Character shoes will usually work for dance auditions, unless otherwise specified.

Here are some hints/tips/general rules:

1) DO NOT SING: Sondheim. Just don’t do it. Almost all musical theater audition sites will tell you this. Sometimes people can pull of some “Into the Woods” stuff, and I know one guy who can sing “Being Alive” from Company like nobody’s business, but, in general, Sondheim is hard to play, and it’s hard to sing. So try something else.

2) Also DO NOT SING: Anything from massively popular musicals, because the directors are sick. of. it. So that means no “Wicked”, also no “Les Miz” (yes, it’s still in the “do not sing” category), no Rent, no “whatever the hottest musical is right now” stuff. It might not be a good fit for your voice, and casting directors want t hear you, not you imitating the opening of The Book of Mormon.

3) Sing something that shows your voice to its best advantage. This might sound obvious, but a lot of people don’t do it. Don’t try to sing soprano stuff if you’re an alto. Don’t try to belt if you’re not a belter. Play to your strengths. A vocal coach will be enormously helpful here.

4) Sing something you are comfortable with. This is not the time to try out new material!

5) Also, memorize it! You cannot bring the sheet music up on stage with you! (Unless the audition notice specifically states that you can.) Make sure it is memorized!

6) A note on the evil 16 bar length: Some places really mean it. Some don’t. Some will let you go a bit farther, and others will cut you off. In general, don’t sway too much from 16 bars. Make sure the phrasing makes sense; finish the musical thought (i.e, the verse, the refrain, whatever). But  do not take advantage of no length limits to sing entire songs, especially long ones. It is highly, highly rude. Sing something relatively brief.COROLLARY: If you are singing two pieces (like, a 16 bar ballad and a 16 bar up-tempo), you MUST stick with 16 bars, or the director/accompanist/other auditioners will kill you. DO NOT WASTE TIME.

7) Bring a clean copy, if at all possible, for the accompanist. Mark where you want to start, and where you want to end. Practice giving your tempo. I have a black binder that holds a few (3-5) copied songs, in page protectors, so it’s easier to turn. Some places ask for a copy for the director, so be sure you have that. Try not to bring the book since it’s bulky and can be hard to set on the music stand of the piano, depending on the model.

8 ) Some accompanists are awesome. Some are not. But YOU are singing here. If the accompanist totally messes up, don’t let it rile you–you can stop and ask him/her to start again. In general, I choose a piece that most accompanists won’t have trouble with. You don’t want something uber-complicated for them to play, unless you know the person, and know that they can handle it.

9) Remember your stage presence! Practice announcing yourself, your song, and what show it’s from. It’s theater! Be loud! 🙂

10) Try not to do too much Idol hand motions. You know what I Mean–the arms rising with crescendo, the random jazz hands, etc. Don’t be a statue, but don’t be over the top. Practice in front of a mirror or your voice teacher, or a friend. (Or all three)

11) Dress comfortably, especially if there is a dance audition. If you are auditioning for a certain character, try to channel that character in your make-up, hair and clothing choices. (For example: When I auditioned for The Importance of Being Earnest, I wore my hair half up/half down, wore a tea-length teal dress, and pearls. It worked–I got cast.) This is not the day to break in character shoes!

12) Usually the dance audition is given to you that day, as in you don’t know the combination beforehand. Concentrate and do your best. Remember to smile!

13) Bringing a resume is another way to up your game (I’ll have a post on that soon). Headshots are usually not required, but if you’re serious about auditioning for higher-level theater (regionals/Equity), it would help to have them handy.

14) Be polite to everyone–assistants, casting directors, staff, and other auditioners. Thank the accompanist and the directors when you are finished.

15) Songs from the show: Very few places allow this. If you’re not sure, ask. It helps if you are familiar with the show and can sing something similar to what the show is like, or something from the composer’s work. When I auditioned for Jekyll and Hyde, I sang something from The Scarlet Pimpernel.  If they do allow it, try to pick something less common from the show. For example, if it’s Children of Eden, and you want to audition for Yonah, don’t sing “Stranger to the Rain”–try to get the music for “Sailor of the Skies”, or sing part of “In The Beginning.”

16) Some places will do vocal testing–scales, intervals–to get a sense of your range. If you know your range in scientific voice notation, write it on your resume. It’s helpful.

17) It helps very much if you are familiar with the show you are auditioning for. Buy the CD, learn the music, read a synopsis or the libretto itself. The more familiar you are with it, the better you will prepare (at least, I think so). And if you get cast, you’ve already done a lot of prep work!


One response

  1. Pingback: Fall Theater season begins! « stagelessons

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