The fall audition season has arrived and I have been preparing students all summer for auditions at professional theatres, community theatres, local youth theatres, and school productions. Here are 5 basic tips to keep in mind as you get ready for your next audition:
1. Be familiar with the show that you’re auditioning for so that you can select appropriate material. What style of music? What decade/year is the show set? What characters are you right for?
2. Have your sheet music prepared for the accompanist in the right key and marked for the specific cut (usually 16 or 32 bars). Have this music memorized and ready for performance; the same goes if you are asked to prepare a monologue (1 to 2 minutes), memorized and ready to go.
3. Dress appropriately! Again, think about the character and the show, but DO NOT go in a costume. If you look and feel uncomfortable, then this will affect your performance. You want to look presentable and relatable.
4. Warm-up your voice ahead of time and take ten minutes to focus. I tell my students all the time that they don’t need a piano to warm-up. Breathing exercises, lip trills, and slides are easy on-the-go warm-ups, while free pitch pipe or piano apps on your phone can give you a starting pitch for arpeggios, scales, or even your song.
5. Be confident and have fun in the audition! You’ve done the hard work to prepare and now you get to perform your audition material for new people. Isn’t that what we performers love to do?
It is common practice in musical theatre for auditions to consist of singing 16-bars at both the professional and community level. On occasion you may be asked for 32-bars, a short song (2-3 min), or even an 8-bar cut (yikes!). I’m focusing on finding 16-bar cuts, approximately 30 to 45 seconds of music, for the purpose of auditioning. Many of my students want to show everything they can do in this short amount of time from their highest note to their powerful belt to their awesome acting chops to their musical prowess. In short, this is an impossible task and not what I want my students to focus on.
What’s important in those 16-bars?
Find a song that is age and voice appropriate. I don’t want to hear a thirteen year old singing “Send In The Clowns” or a fifty year old singing “Good Morning Baltimore”.
Find a song that fits the style of the show you’re auditioning for. If you’re auditioning for Rock of Ages, a rock song (preferably not from a musical) is what I’d recommend whereas if you’re audition for The Sound of Music, I would generally suggest a legit classic musical theatre song.
Find a song that you love. There is so much music to choose from that there is no need to settle for a song that you think is just okay.
Tell a story in sixteen bars and make sure that your cut makes sense. We don’t want to end in the middle of a phrase or on a leading tone (note that wants to be resolved to Do). It is possible to have a cohesive story in 16-bars.
You! Directors, music directors, and the producing team want to work with awesome people. Don’t get so caught up in vocal technique and acting and musicality that you forget to simply enjoy the performance of your 16-bars!
Last, but not least, HAVE FUN! It’s your time and your audition so enjoy it.
It’s that time of year again! For me, I love going through my clothes, shoes, and household items to decide what to donate, what to sell, and what to keep. It gives me such joy to organize and get rid of things that I no longer want or need. The same can be true with our audition books.
As people, we are always growing and songs that may have worked for you in the past may not work for you anymore. What should I take out of my audition book?
For starters, there are songs that no longer fit your type. If only a year ago you were a 4’11” boy soprano singing “Lift Me Up” from The Secret Garden and you are now a 5’3″ fourteen year old boy with a tenor range, this song can easily be discarded from your audition book. The same can be said if you feel that you no longer appropriate for teen roles, 20s roles, and so on. Height can play a big factor, especially in children’s roles. In fact, certain casting notices list height restrictions. Matilda (max. 4’3″ for the title role and 4’10” for children’s ensemble) and The Producers (women 5’8″ and up for Ulla) are great examples!
Next there is your vocal development. Has your voice changed since the last time you went through your audition book? Have you developed a stronger belt or polished your legit chops? As you continue your development as a singer, you’ll notice your ability to sing certain repertoire will change and therefore your audition book must also change.
Then there is material that you no longer are passionate about singing, don’t feel a connection to, or simply can’t relate to anymore. This can be a little harder to decipher, but look through your book and think about what songs you actually enjoy singing. If you’re bored with the song, then there is a huge likelihood that the people auditioning you won’t be impressed either. There’s so many songs out there in every genre that there’s no need to audition with stale material.
Once you have done all of this, think about what types of songs you still have in your book. What are you missing? What do you need for the upcoming audition season?
Hearing music from Grease immediately brings back memories of singing in the ensemble during my sophomore year of high school. I was featured in Beauty School Dropout :-). Of course, I’d first seen the original movie in my early teens, even saw Grease 2 at some point, and had the hand jive down before I even started at Eastern Regional High School in Voorhees, NJ.
On Sunday night at 7pm, I was all set to watch Grease: LIVE! on Fox. Following the trend to bring musical theatre to audiences nationwide with a live taping usually featuring big names, Grease did not disappoint. There was a lot of energy emanating from the cast throughout the entire show and the live audience really added to the production. They brought to life the movie (more so than the stage production) that many remember from their childhood and I was singing along to almost every number!
So for my vocal students, my thoughts today are about what to sing if you’re auditioning for Grease. The first word that comes to mind when I think of this show is FUN. Finding a song with lots of character and bringing energy into the audition room is key. My top repertoire suggestion is actual 50s pop/rock music. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, Google it and find some tunes. Artists that I think of in this era are Bill Haley and The Comets (fond memories of singing Rock Around The Clock with my parents), Elvis, Debbie Reynolds, Connie Francis, Chuck Berry, and Fats Domino.
If you’d rather choose or are asked to choose a song from a musical, I would find a show in a similar style to Grease! Cry-Baby is a great example. It was written as a movie in 1990 and made into a Broadway musical in 2007, but it’s set in the 1950s and has music that reflects that time period. All Shook Up is another great example. In fact, jukebox musicals are a great resource for finding pop and rock music. Then all you have to do is be confident and rock the audition!