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Got a Musical Theatre Audition?

auditons for musicals broadway auditions how to prepare for a musical theatre audition musical auditions musical theatre musical theatre audition musicl theatre audition sings Apr 12, 2017

So you've got a Musical Theatre Audition?

If you have a Musical-Theatre-Audition you probably feel a little tentative especially if it is your first musical audition in the theatre. And as I know absolutely nothing about this - it is outside of my field of expertise I thought I'd call on a couple of people who do know.

Gillian Bevan


How to do a Musical-Theatre-Audition ?

You know that thing you do as an actor in a play or a tv and film, where you wake in the morning and do a quick body scan of how your voice is, and check to see if you have any weird muscular spasms and aches and malfunctions? Well, multiply that by a factor of fifteen, and you know you are in a musical.........

Musicals are thankfully no longer seen as the lesser being of the theatre arts - it used to be that "straight "theatre people looked down on them, as though they required fewer skills than a straight play. I never understood that.

 In my early career I used to have 2 cv's, - and when I went up for a TV part my agent left off all the musicals that I had done, as tele peeps had no imagination back then, and used to think you were somehow frivolous or lightweight as a performer if you did them, - but now they are generally recognised as actually needing more skills, and throw dancing in to the mix and you need to be what is known as a "triple threat" - i.e. someone who can sing dance and act. A bit like being a heptathlete. Think of them as the Jessica Ennis of the theatre.......

I've just finished playing Mrs Wilkinson in Billy Elliot for 18 months, and at the end of the run, said to  my agent,  "I think I'd better take a break from doing musicals for a bit, they are wonderful , and thrilling to be in, but utterly exhausting and totally all encompassing, it feels like you are in training for an outward bound course, and I need to lie down in a darkened room for a while".

Then I got offered Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd and I am currently in the throes of the third circle of hell, where I am doing my prep for it, thinking this is one of the most thrilling scores of the Twentieth Century, written by, in my opinion, the premier composer of his generation, and so now I am at that point where I think it is too difficult and that I don't really have the skills or the talent to carry it off, and what on earth was I thinking that I could ever do this.............

....and then my brain goes, oh yes, this is actually part of the process, and you always do this, and that actually , any job worth doing, is scary as hell, and actually it is good to be scared. Feel the fear and do it anyway.........

I've been auditioning for plays, television and musicals for over thirty five years, and, out of all of them, the Musical-Theatre-Audition is always the most daunting.......(and I think I still don't know how to do them)  - but people keep employing me on and off to do them, so maybe, just maybe,  I know more than I think I know. 

There are many many different types of musicals, just as there are many different types of play. From BIG lavish commercial West End shows like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, to smaller intimate chamber pieces like Adam Cork and Alecky Blythe's genius  "verbatim theatre" London Road" - (about to be made in to a film) -  and many variations in between.

So if you are new to a Musical-Theatre-Audition or auditioning for musicals, then this is the first thing to consider, and it might seem completely obvious, but, -

KNOW WHAT KIND OF MUSICAL YOU ARE AUDITIONING FOR

...as this will influence the type of choice you will make in the music you want to present in an audition. Research as much a possible the style of the piece for your Musical-Theatre-Audition.

You will often get told by your agent, "they have asked you to bring a song of your choice that you love,  and then a ballad and an up beat song of the period".

Most people are cool with that, but me,  I hate it. I love many different types of song, and sing them all differently. I wouldn't sing a Rodgers and Hart song with the same voice as I used in Billy Elliot, so for me it is a waste of time just bringing in a random " song that I love" . I wouldn't know where to begin.  So I have to narrow it down, and I tend to  cut to the chase, and try and find something a) that I know already so it kind of "sits" in my brain, and b) is by the same composer but a different show...

......but often I will move hell or high water to actually learn a song from the actual show,  and when they say "what are you going do to for us today" say something like well, I've brought some Gershwin as its the same era as .........." but I have a working knowledge of (blah) from the show, so I could do that around the piano if you like?

Try and give them options, if they have had fifteen "Memories" from Cats that morning they might be driven demented so will jump at the chance to hear something new. What normally happens is if they like your first audition they will give you some music from the show to go away and learn anyway so you can often skip a whole round of re calls just be doing that......

MAKE SURE YOU KNOW  WHAT YOUR CHOSEN SONG SOUNDS LIKE WITH JUST PIANO ACCOMPANIMENT at your Musical Theatre Audition.

It might sound wonderful on your cd with a full orchestra and you singing along but  when it is just you and a piano without that guitar riff and bass drum it will feel totally different and surprise and scare you that it is so different. So do get hold of the sheet music, and do try and get someone to take you through it with just the piano, i.e. re- create the conditions in the audition.

FIND SOMETHING YOU LOVE TO SING for your Audition 

Obvious really. Like anything - you have to somehow connect with it, even if it was only because you remember your grannie singing it

FIND SOMETHING IN THE RIGHT KEY FOR YOU

A different key can make an enormous amount of difference to the sound of your voice and your confidence singing it. These days, there are sites on line that print songs off for you in a chosen key.

PREP YOUR PIANIST PLAYING FOR YOU at your Musical-Theatre-Audition 

Spend a little time before you start to sing to have a chat with the accompanist - point out any difficult bits or changes you have made, or how you like to do the first bit slow and then speed up at the end......most pianists who play in auditions are brilliant sight readers, but they are not super human and it will be good if they don't know the song or the particular version of the song so give them a couple of minutes to look over it.

KEEP STILL, ish.....

Much like doing a speech audition, less is generally more , so don't wander about all over the place - plant your feet firmly, drop your shoulders and try and remember to breathe.........

There is much discussion about where your focus should be, i.e do you actually sing directly to the people auditioning you , or do you pretend that you are singing to a wider audience and avoid eye contact. Depends......on how confident you are , what type of song it is  and how you think they would feel. I often do a bit of both.......

It's a revelation to sit in on a Musical-Theatre-Audition, and if you get the chance I would do so, as it can really inform you what works and what doesn't. 

Be as prepared as you can possibly be. Lyrics are a bugger to learn sometimes and they disappear with the nerves of the situation. Go back to basics much like doing a speech. Think on the line, relax, breathe. Use your natural singing voice. I much prefer voices that sound like they are just an extension of their speaking voice. ( Think Ella.........think Barbara Cook)

Listen hard to the pianist....but try and lead him/her and not let yourself be led as you can end up singing at his/her preferred tempo. 

Its quite revealing, singing to someone. More revealing than just doing a speech. You have the opportunity to show them a little bit of who you are , and what you can offer, so if you can hang on to that, and focus on that then that will help. Don't try and sing like anyone else. Sing who you are.

Mary Hammond a famous voice teacher says "SING WITH THE VOICE YOU HAVE ON THE DAY"  which is the most marvellous advice. Sometimes, you wake with a cold, a sore throat and feel dreadful. So you have to use that because that is what your instrument is that day. If you listen to Blossom Dearie, one of the greatest cabaret artists ever from the U S she had a tiny voice with very few notes but her phrasing was magnificent, her intention was spot on and she could capture the heart of any song she sang. 

Most great singers sound effortless........and that is what you are trying to achieve.  It should sound as though it is the most natural thing in the world for you to go from speaking to singing, because it can only be expressed that way.......its a heightened kind of realism really, - like a sonnet - something compressed and not everyday, but like a great thought you have just had. 

Often in a Musical-Theatre-Audition I feel so nervous  want to be sick. But I have learnt to fake it, and fake being calm, and trying to get THEM to relax is the key. You want them to enjoy it , and they won't if you look too worried.

Music bypasses the intellect and goes straight to the heart. Its the most thrilling thing to sing with other people and with an orchestra. It gets the most unbelievable responses from audiences when you get it right. I'd give it a go. It's worth the effort, I promise. 

Here's Gillians Showreel

https://vimeo.com/65156342

Spotlight View PIN:    9070-9082-1860 - Enter View Pin into Search box on Spotlight site.

You Tube Channel - FREE training right here


 Katie Sheridan

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20 tips how to prepare for a singing audition 

From Paul Christ

1. Be prepared! This seems really obvious but make sure that you know what’s expected of you. Show up early and be prepared to sing straight away.

2. Be in good voice. If you haven’t sung in a while, you can’t expect to go into a singing audition and perform well. Singing every day is essential for keeping your voice healthy and strong.

3. Know the Show. In musical theatre, there’s no excuse for not being familiar with the show you’re auditioning for. When preparing your audition material never sing something from the show you’re auditioning for, unless you’re specifically asked to. On the other hand, choose a song that’s similar in style and range to the character you’re auditioning for.

4. Always give yourself plenty of time to learn your audition material. Rehearse with a pianist and don’t solely rely on learning from a recording since that version may be considerably different from the sheet music you have.

5. Never audition without the music! If you make a mistake while singing, do not stop! An audition is like a performance; just keep going and do not let your face or body language reveal the fact that you’ve made a mistake. Oh, and never glare at the pianist!

6. Never sing a Capella. Don’t choose a song that’s notoriously difficult for a pianist to play. Know your lyrics and your music; do not hold a cheat sheet or the sheet music, and don’t look over the pianist’s shoulder. Although this may seem obvious, choose a song that suits you. Many singers do not.

7. Have properly prepared sheet music. Make sure it’s written out in the right key, and that any tempo changes, and change in musical directions are all clearly marked. Never give a pianist sheet music in the form of a music book. 

That makes it too difficult to turn the pages. Make a photocopy of your song, and tape the edges together accordion fashion. When you hand the pianist your music, make sure you smile and say hello. Give them a good idea of the tempo by singing a few bars quietly for them. If there are tempo changes or the like, point them out.

8. Enter the audition with confidence – first impressions are key here. Keep good posture and walk with confidence, even if you’re terrified!

9. Don’t apologise. Not for any reason. Make no excuses. Always be professional.

10. Dress for an audition in a smart/casual way. Don’t wear uncomfortable shoes, or something that’s too tight. Don’t come in costume and don’t reveal too much! If you’re called back, wear the same outfit you wore the first day, and wear your hair and makeup the same way too.

They liked what they saw…so don’t change it! In a large audition, wearing the same outfit also makes it easier for the panel to remember you.

11. Be friendly but don’t be overly talkative. Smile and be personable.

12. When you sing, just stand there and sing. Never do choreography or blocking to accompany your song. Don’t wander around. But do use hand and arm movements providing they are natural. This is no time to be shy, so sing out and give a performance.

13. Never Snap your fingers or clap your hands at the pianist. Even is you’re just trying to help them with the tempo. Keep your hands out of your pockets.

Good luck! The more you can audition the easier it gets.

Preparing to sing (not only in a singing audition)

  • Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. This gives the air a chance to warm and moisturise before hitting your larynx and lungs.
  • Do not lose body heat. 70-80% of body heat-loss happens through the neck and head so wear a hat and scarf even in mildly cool weather. This helps keep your vocal muscles warm.
  • Drink plenty of water. Both outside cold air and indoor heating and cooling systems can be very drying on the voice. If your throat is dry keep the fluids up, take a long warm shower (or even better a visit to a steam room) and do not talk. This will reduce any swelling to the vocal chords.
  • A warm drink will help warm areas around the larynx, but remember that caffeine is a diuretic and can dry you out.

Warm up wisely. It’s advisable to begin every day with some humming and light vocal exercises (it’s like stretching muscles before a gym workout). Ask your singing teacher or vocal coach to record a vocal warm up tailored to your needs.

Singing in public

Choose the right song and make it work. In order to connect with your audience you’re going to need to connect with the song itself. Be sure to select something that you enjoy singing, and equally important – understand what the song is about. The next layer to add is your own interpretation to the song and what exactly it is you want to say.

Posture and body language. Remember that your posture can increase or decrease the quality of your vocal production and your body language (especially your facial expressions) enhances the story you want to tell, so use these to your advantage.

If you are not sure how you come across when you sing, then this is something to work on with your vocal coach and then practise in front of the mirror and family and friends! It’s all part of the performance. Keep your shoulders down and relax your jaw and breathe!

For more information on Paul Christ and his work please visit: www.paulchrist.at

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