What to sing at your next Musical Theatre Audition

Follow the directions

Find out what you are being asked to prepare, and stick to it! 16 or 32 bar requests should be observed as closely as possible. If they ask for a ‘short song,’ that usually means a verse and a chorus of something. There’s no reason to sing all 7 minutes of “Meadowlark”, in fact I guarantee you will get cut off before getting through most of it. Find a cut of a song that shows your voice, tells a story, and adheres to the audition posting.

Do your research

Are you auditioning for a 1970s pop musical? A contemporary folk show? Choose a song that is similar to the show you are auditioning for. It’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the other work of the composer/lyricist and often a safe bet to choose an audition piece by them or their contemporaries. Unless expressly asked, don’t sing from the show you are auditioning for. Also, when possible find out who will be attending the audition- will it be the director, musical director, producer? What projects have they recently worked on? Maybe avoid material from those shows to avoid a direct comparison.

Choose a real pop song

More and more shows are Jukebox musicals (meaning the score pulls directly from certain artists’ catalogues like ABBA’s MAMMA MIA and The Four Seasons’ JERSEY BOYS) or are written by pop/rock artists (like Cindy Lauper’s KINKY BOOTS, and Sara Bareilles’ WAITRESS). These shows almost always will ask that you bring in a real pop/rock/country/folk/disco song, in which case- do! Don’t choose a pop song or arrangement that is found in another musical (like the various 80’s classics arranged in the musical ROCK OF AGES). Choose something by a favorite artist of yours that is authentic to the period the show you are auditioning for is set in. Check out my friend Sheri Sanders’ site for everything you need to succeed at a pop audition. www.rock-the-audition.com

Avoid signature songs

These are songs associated with a particular famous artist. For example, “Over the Rainbow” is Judy Garland’s signature song. “People” and “Don’t Rain on my Parade” are Barbra Streisand’s. It is best to steer clear of songs where you will be directly compared to legends. I’d also avoid anything that is currently on, or has been on Broadway in the last 3 years, as well as the huge juggernauts WICKED, LES MISERABLES, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, and whatever the new hot show is. At the moment in New York, those are HAMILTON and DEAR EVAN HANSEN. Do yourself a favor, and sing something that ten other people won’t also be bringing in.

Prepare your sheet music!

We’ll go into this in more detail in a later blog post, but suffice it to say- have a clean and clearly marked copy of your sheet music three-hole punched and in a binder. Give your accompanist all the information they need to make it a successful audition for you.

There are exceptions to the rules-

Like if the audition call clearly asks for any of the above pieces, or if you are preparing music from the show at the request of the creative team. Also, the ‘rules’ are more loose or strict depending on whether you are auditioning for your grade school play, community theatre, or a Broadway production. No matter what, it will only help to be as prepared and professional as possible!

How to Audition for a Musical

abernadette_peters_live_0574-1Auditioning for a musical can be both thrilling and terrifying at the same time. As actors it’s important not to let our nerves get the best of us! Remember that the people in the audition are rooting for you to be at your best. They want you to be the perfect fit for their show! Here are six essential tips for nailing your next musical audition.

1. Come prepared

A wise teacher once told me, “Your first line of defense at any audition is preparation, second is concentration.” It’s normal and expected to be nervous when auditioning. The adrenaline and anxiety while waiting your turn and the thrill of the opportunity is natural. But nerves and fear are not synonymous. We are only fearful when we don’t know what we’re doing.

Check and double-check the audition requirements before showing up. Are they asking for a legit ballad, a comedic, up-tempo number? Will they possibly ask some people to stay and dance afterward? How many copies of your headshot and resume are they asking for? The more information you know the better. Once you’ve made your audition selections, practice! Work with a pianist so the first time you sing through your piece with accompaniment isn’t in the audition room.

2. Be yourself

Casting directors want to get to know YOU. Really, truly! If they are going to cast you in a show where you’ll be rehearsing and performing with the same group of people for an extended period of time, you better be likeable. Don’t waste their time with some persona of whom you think they want to see, just be yourself! Dress nicely, but in clothes you would wear in your real life. Choose material that shows a glimpse of your personality. Reputation is everything in this business, so present the best version of you.

3. Sing what you sing best

Choosing what to sing for an audition is often the most stressful part of preparation. Be aware of what the audition notice asks for – if you’re going in for the ‘80s rock musical ROCK OF AGES, your favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein piece is not going to cut it. Within the parameters of the genre asked for, sing what you sing best. Sing what you love, you’ll 131623402_11nfeel confident and perform your best. It’s in your best interest to have a full audition “book” of songs you sing, but staying up the night before to learn what you think is the absolute perfect song for the audition often works against you. Don’t chance forgetting the lyrics or cracking on the high notes because you chose to sing a brand-new piece.

4. Give the pianist the information they need

Make sure your music is clearly marked and includes the following information either in the music or written in by you: the song title and who wrote it, key, time signature, tempo, introduction, end point, and any cuts you’ve made. The pianist is your friend! Always assume they know the piece you are asking them to play, there’s no need to ask if they do. Clearly give them your tempo by singing the first line of the song- not by snapping or counting. Also, it’s not a secret what you’re talking about over there, so don’t whisper it like it is! Speak clearly and confidently, and be as concise as possible.

5. Be courteous

As a general rule in the audition room, speak when spoken to. The folks behind the table (often the casting director, a musical director, the actual director, and other various production personnel) have seen a lot of people that day and usually want to get straight to the point. Certainly say ‘hello’ when coming in, but striking up a long conversation about the new trick your dog learned over the weekend will be met with boredom and/or annoyance. They may ask you what you are singing, in which case, tell them! But there’s never any need to announce what you’ll be performing as if you were in an elementary school production. More than likely they’re familiar with your song. Thank those behind the table, and most importantly, the pianist, before leaving the room!

6. Leave it in the room

An actor’s life is primarily made up of auditioning. The best skill you can develop is to leave your audition in the room. Don’t dwell, fret, or obsess over it once you leave. Make a log of the audition in your audition journal (consisting of what the audition was for, what you sang and wore, and who was there), and then leave it be. Casting is 100% out of your control, and the sooner you learn that the happier you will be. We often forget that things like height, hair color, age, and costume size might be playing into the casting director’s decision. Our job as actors is to be prepared and to be our best selves. Leave the stressful job of casting to the professionals.

Don’t let inexperience be your excuse for not auditioning. Auditioning is a skill just like riding a bike, so you need to practice. Go to all kinds of auditions, and go often. The more auditions you go to, the more confident you’ll be and the better you’ll do, not to mention the more opportunities you’ll have to get cast. Remember these tips, be prepared, and most of all, have fun in the audition room!