Putting a Face on Theatre
Since it's Musical Monday, let's start the day off with some tips on how to choose a song for an audition. The song must be a perfect fit from the moment you open your mouth to the last sound wave of the big money note. With college and summer stock auditions coming up, now's a great time to pick repertoire to land those scholarships and gigs.
Choose a song that is:
1. A Solo ~ For a solo audition, never sing a song that was written as a duet, trio, or chorus number. Even if you really love the song, already have the sheet music, and have it memorized, pick a different song. I guarantee there is at least one other great song in the Musical Theatre canon.
2. Not from the Show ~ Never sing from the show unless the audition notice specifically says you should. Sing a song that is very similar to the songs sung by the character you want to get. The director may have a different take on the character that you don't know about, and singing a song from the show may appear as if you're "set in your ways" ... or at least, set in singing it like the singer on the cast album. The last thing you want is to seem inflexible or undirectable.
3. Within Your Age Range and Life Experience ~ A teenager probably would not have the life experience to sing about doomed romance or the travails of war, so don't pretend. You won't impress a director by trying to sing older for your age. Likewise, a 50 year-old woman can't pass for the innocent maiden, either. Roles are usually stereotyped into certain voice types, and certain age ranges evoke certain types of characters: young female = lyric, light soprano, ingenue; older, experienced female = belter, "other woman," trouble-maker; tenor = earnest, romantic lead; bass = older man, sage, bad guy.
4. Within Your Vocal Range and Training ~ Many singers today do not transpose songs -- "sing it as written, or sing something else" is the usual mantra, though transposing was frequently done in the days of old (before 1950, so I'm told). Therefore, if you're a baritone, the high notes of West Side Story's "Maria" are probably too high, while the belted showtune, "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" from Anything Goes, would not sound right coming from a classically-trained soprano.
With famous roles, the written high (and low) notes are usually well-known: "Christine" in Phantom of the Opera has to sing a High C; "Mary Sunshine" from Chicago is a male counter-tenor role that goes up to a High E, while the title role in Kiss of the Spider Woman requires the woman to sing an octave below Middle C. Also, the Musical Director just might ask you the vocal range of the song, or what is the highest note you can hit; you need to know those answers (i.e., your highest legit note will be different from your highest belt note). So stay in your genre and vocal range. If you want to expand either, do so many months before an audition. Do not use an audition as your time to prove this new road you want to travel.
5. A Shortened Version of the Song ~ Keep your song between 90 seconds and 2 minutes if there is no time limit or bar length mentioned in the audition notice: i.e., "Prepare 60 seconds or 16 bars of a song." Sing a verse, the bridge, a chorus, the last verse, and the tag. Skip any recitative or multiple verses. You want to leave them wanting more from you. Pull 'em in, dazzle them with your range and versatility, then wow them with the money note. Sweet and simple.
Save the full songs for the callback. You should have 8 to 10 full songs that you can sing at a moment's notice for just such an occasion. And forget about buying those "16-bar" books. Just because a songbook editor picked those 16 bars for a song doesn't mean those are the "right" 16 bars for your voice.
writer * composer * vocal talent