Tag: music

Audition Tips for My Musical Theatre Students

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?

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Playbill Series: Elf

_dsc6622For my December playbill (and an ending to the 2016 holiday season), what better show choice than Elf? I saw the original cast on December 14, 2010 with my mom and it was a great addition to my yearly holiday festivities.

I was living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan at the time and my mom came for her annual holiday visit. She loved to visit each Christmas season to soak in the holiday spirit and check out all of the holiday markets. Over the years, I’ve been to every one in the city from Union Square to Grand Central to Bryant Park to Columbus Circle. It’s a fun tradition that we developed while I lived in NYC. We’ve returned twice since I moved to the DC area 4 years ago and always have a blast, shopping, seeing shows, trying new restaurants, and returning to our favorite places!

I was a tourist for the evening at this particular Broadway show. I got my tickets at the box office ahead of time, we both bought souvenir t-shirts from the show (pictured above), and wandered around Times Square before the evening performance.

I love New York City at Christmastime and always relish seeing Broadway shows that put me in the holiday spirit. I even purchase the cast recording after it’s released. I own the Elf recording as well as How The Grinch Stole Christmas, White Christmas, and A Christmas Carol.

Elf is a fun musical for the whole family. If you want to see this show in the local DMV area, Aldersgate Church Community Theatre is producing  Elf Jr. (a one hour version with cast members ages 8 to 18) in January. Consider adding this cast recording to your festive music list; it will certainly put you in the “sparklejollytwinklejingley” mood!

 

School of Rock: Rock Your Voice!

On Friday, November 4th, I saw the opening night performance and the youth production regional premiere of School of Rock at West Potomac High School. I had several students in the production that I coached for their auditions, which consisted of singing from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score. We worked on extending our range into a balanced effortless high mix, eliminating vibrato, releasing notes (without cracking or pulling back or falling off), and switching between registers seamlessly.

Four things I learned from watching this production:
A. The role of Dewey is exhausting. The sheer amount of energy required for this role is astounding.

B. Singing strong and high (in both mix rock and legit) is difficult to master. I knew this one already, but seeing this show definitely reiterated it.

C. Becoming more than a triple threat and being able to also play an instrument is a huge component of this show for multiple characters! Doing this at the high school level is another awesome opportunity to hone skills that will benefit young performers in the professional theatre world.

D. The ensemble in School of Rock is great and there were some memorable moments within the ensemble! Kudos to Director Clark for utilizing the ensemble in interesting and notable ways.

Here is a video examining two short sections of musical theatre rock vocals and how to execute them!

Musical Theatre About Town

The fall is here and I have students performing in productions all over town in lead, supporting, and ensemble roles. I’ll be writing about many of these shows over the next month, but have decided to start with a professional staged reading that I saw at Signature Theatre this October.

I am a strong advocate for new musical theatre, learning about new composers, new shows, and new repertoire. As I discover new material, I also develop opinions on these pieces. It may be apparent that a show needs a lot of work (re-writes, cuts, edits) before heading to a larger venue or it may be ready for something more and leave you (the audience member) excited about this new show. I always consider whether a show has something unique to offer our contemporary musical theatre world and whether the storyline is compelling.

On October 22nd, I had the opportunity to see a staged reading of Light Years at Signature Theatre as part of their SigWorks: Musical Theater Lab. Watching a bare space with 6 actors sitting in chairs behind music stands in everyday clothes, I was captivated by these artists that brought this story to life through vocal inflections, pacing, and simply telling the story.

Robbie Schaefer, who wrote the book, music, and lyrics for this show, also performed the role of Older Robbie and played guitar (the main source of accompaniment with some piano). This was a brand-new show to me in every way. I did not know the composer or the story or even the style of music. The score had a folk influence and feel (and if any of my students were auditioning for this show, I would look beyond musical theatre and find a song that is folk or country). It was directed by Eric Schaeffer (a big name in the musical theatre biz) and the music was beautifully and seamlessly connected with the book.

This was my first experience with SigWorks and I can’t wait to see what is next. They are creating art and bringing to life new musical theatre works that need to be seen and heard.  Being in this small audience on that Saturday afternoon was a joy and I soaked in every  minute. Don’t be afraid to see a show just because you don’t know anything about it! It’s important to support new musical theatre and to be open to these new and exciting works of art.

Playbill Series: If/Then

_dsc9111It’s September and I’m going to share my experience seeing If/Then on Broadway. I’m going to preface this post by saying that I saw the pre-Broadway engagement at the Kennedy Center here in Washington, DC and already loved the Tom Kitt/ BYorkey score. I will also note that I think Ms. Idina Menzel picks someone in the audience to wave to as she exits after curtain call each performance and I think that I was that lucky person during this particular Saturday matinee.

Since I had already seen this show during its’ pre-Broadway tryout, it wasn’t at the top of my list to see during one of my NYC trips. I was already 6 months pregnant and knew that I wouldn’t be able to hop on a train to the city whenever I felt like it once my twins were born. My good friend, Courtney, and I were planning on seeing 2 shows during my short stay with her, a Friday evening show and a Saturday matinee. We decided to try our hand at a lottery ticket when I first got to town and if that failed, we’d hit up TKTS in Times Square. I mentioned this in a previous blog, but I have very little luck when it comes to these lotteries. We each put our name in the drawing at Aladdin and neither of our names was drawn. Usually all of the lotteries take place at the exact same time and since you have to be there when your name is called, it’s impossible to be in the lottery for more than one show. As luck would have it, If/Then had their lottery a half-hour later than all of the other shows so we decided to try for it. Courtney’s name was called second and I was called fourth…what?!?! My name didn’t even need to be called since each person can buy up to 2 tickets.

On this mild Friday evening, we scored $35 orchestra seats to the show and had just enough time to meet Courtney’s husband, Rick, for dinner at 5 Napkin Burger in Hell’s Kitchen. We made it back to the theatre with time to spare and settled into our bargain seats!

Having the opportunity to see this show again allowed me to see how they tightened things up and refined the book for their Broadway engagement. Although there were certainly mixed reviews for this show, I loved seeing it both times and really related to the storyline. Maybe this is because I was pregnant and being a mother (and a military family) is a part of this show. Maybe it’s because I sometimes think about life in terms of if I had done this versus that and where I would be. Maybe it’s because it takes place in NYC and everyone knows I love the city. Or maybe it’s because the show had an awesome cast, a cool ensemble, and great energy! There is nothing that excites me and inspires me more than an evening of musical theatre.

 

Seeing Broadway Shows On The Fly

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http://www.playbill.com/

I recently made a day trip to NYC to see a show and spend time with my husband. It was a Wednesday so I decided to see a matinee and I was open to many different shows. I submitted my information to 3 online lotteries and actually won 2 of the 3. I ended up seeing An American In Paris. There are no guarantees that you will win these lotteries, but I’m confident that you can get tickets on the day of a performance at a budget price as long as you are not picky about what show you see or where you sit.

I’ve seen numerous shows through rush tickets, lotteries, and TKTS. I’ve scored amazing orchestra seats, obstructed view seats, and back balcony seats all at prices way below box office price. The best resource for these seats is Playbill. Click here to see the current line up of rush, lotteries, and standing room tickets. If you have no luck with these options, there’s always TKTS, which offers discounts of 20 to 50 percent on orchestra seats for every performance. They even have an app that you can download to see what is listed each day.

On this recent trip, I also submitted to the Hamilton online lottery again (I did this on my last trip too) and sadly, I once again did not win. It’s the hottest ticket in town right now, and the entire street was mobbed as I strolled by the theatre Wednesday afternoon when they were in-the-midst of the live matinee lottery. I then waited in line for a cancellation ticket to the evening show (at full ticket price) and yet again was unable to score tickets. I’ll keep trying and will post a photo as soon as it happens.

With plenty of options for discounted tickets to Broadway (and off-Broadway) shows, there’s no reason not to take in a matinee or evening (or both!!) show when you’re in NYC. It is paramount to a young performer’s development to see live theatre and learn! From hearing new music, seeing strong acting choices, observing performers’ technique, and taking in a new experience every time, artists can continue to grow.

 

You Can’t Stop The Beat!

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Playbill from the Broadway production in 2007

Our local middle school, George Washington Middle School, recently performed their spring musical, Hairspray Jr! I went to opening night of this show and the music transports me to a different world every time. All of a sudden, I’m bouncing in my seat to the tunes and laughing out loud. I saw Hairspray on Broadway three times during its’ almost 7 year run and I even auditioned for the national tour twice (sadly, even after a callback, no contract was offered).

Middle school is a vocally tough transition time. Students this age rarely understand their break, how to switch seamlessly between registers (what’s a register?), and how to extend certain vowels without getting too nasal, too heavy, or too bright. I always suggest a good warm-up that includes both head and chest resonation. Opening up the upper register will help with the pop mix sound that is needed throughout Hairspray.

Breath is also a huge factor in a high energy show like Hairspray. “You Can’t Stop the Beat” requires excellent breath support for singing through the phrases, catching a quick (but still full!) breath where appropriate, and dancing at the same time in this fast tempo.

PRACTICE RECOMMENDATION: Run & Sing! You might not make it through the first time without panting, but ultimately, I’ve found that physical activity while singing (running, jumping jacks, even planks) can help to improve stamina, endurance, and diaphragmatic breath support.