So you want to audition for a musical? Here’s what you should know!
By Nate Paul
The live theatre industry may be at a standstill; however, this simply means when the doors can finally open for live theatre again that singers, actors, and dancers must answer the call to perform! I am here to give you insider tips about preparing your first musical theater audition. If it’s not your first time around the block, take this stroll with me for some gentle reminders.
To get you started, there are some basic details about the audition you should familiarize yourself with that will guide your preparation:
- Visit the theater’s website and find their audition information for the specific production you are auditioning for. Oftentimes, they will list an email you can contact for any questions, comments, or concerns not answered in the audition information.
- Look and see what the audition requirements are. Some theaters ask for only a song, while others may ask for a song, monologue, and maybe even a dance audition.
- Find out if they require accompaniment tracks or sheet music, or if they give you the option of either one. If you’re new to singing and given the option, I recommend using tracks since you can practice with them beforehand.
- Identify if there are any other materials needed for your audition. For example, headshots, resumes, pre-filled audition forms, scheduling an audition appointment, sheet music that needs to be sent to a pianist, etc..
- Pay special attention to dates of auditions, callbacks, rehearsals, and shows. Similar to any other collaborative activity, it is important you can commit to the days and times needed to put the production together.
Now that the essentials have been discussed, let’s talk about preparing a song for your audition! Some theaters will have you sing a song from the show, some will ask for a song by the composer, some ask for a song in the style of the show, and so on. Your song selection should be something that fits these prerequisites while also showing your best qualities and strengths. Some people will express that the obscure route is the way to go because it catches the panel’s interest, which is true only if you can perform it well! If your best is a song from Wicked, go for it! If your best is a deep cut piece from a 1930s Gershwin show, that’s fine too! Just make sure your song sounds similar to the show you’re auditioning for.
A song audition will almost always be 16-32 bars or as close to 60 seconds as possible. If you intend to use sheet music or you are required to, here are some preemptive actions that will ensure you feel confident and comfortable when singing. Be careful that your song selection isn’t ridiculously difficult to sight read for a pianist (i.e. Jason Robert Brown and Stephen Sondheim). I would recommend emailing the audition team to see if the pianist is willing to look at your song ahead of time if you’re unsure of the difficulty level.
It is equally important to have your sheet music in the key in which you are singing. Too many times has someone brought in sheet music too high or low compared to what they’ve been practicing with on the original soundtrack or karaoke tracks they found on Youtube. Right away, that will negatively affect how well you present your audition material. The adjustments a performer has to make when singing in a key they have never sung in before may distract them from expressing the narrative in the song which takes precedent in musical theatre. In the worst case scenario, the new key can be so high or low in comparison to what you have normally practiced that the range may be unattainable. This can even prevent you from completing your audition, which is the last thing you want to happen after spending all of that time preparing.
Finally, mark the start and finish of your song cut clearly in your sheet music. You may also mark any special moments you plan on doing something that isn’t marked in the music already such as if you plan to hold a note, or change the tempo in any particular that isn’t already marked. Bonus points if you are able to rehearse with a pianist before your audition that can provide feedback. This will only further help you familiarize yourself with the music you plan on presenting.
In my next entry, I will discuss what to know for your audition day! In the meantime, I hope you are able to take these ideas and apply them into your song preparations. Happy singing!
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