For many actors, one of the most stressful moments of the musical audition is having to sing. Speaking text, sword fighting and even, God forbid, doing mime work pale in comparison to the anxiety an actor can have when asked to sing. But don’t despair. Here is some advice that should not only help you keep from embarrassing yourself but hopefully land the part.
Choosing the Right Song
Just as casting the right actors has the biggest affect on the success of a project, carefully picking your song will definitely influence how well you come off at the audition. Here are some guidelines for choosing the right one:
- First off, if possible, try to find out what they want you to sing.
- Avoid currently popular or overexposed songs.
- As audition material, pop songs are valueless. Use only theatre/cabaret as your source for audition material.
- Do not choose songs written by your friends or family….or you for that matter!
- Do not choose songs that have come to be associated with famous people.
- Do not choose a song written by the composer for whom you’re auditioning, unless they’ve told you to.
- Choose a song that does not require a performance above your ability to deliver – voice, emotion, or dance.
- Choose a song that doesn’t need a production number; i.e. “One” from A Chorus Line.
- Choose a song that increases in importance as it proceeds, meaning the second eight bars are more interesting than the first eight.
Getting Warmed Up
Now that you’ve picked your song, it’s time to start editing, researching and rehearsing. You should know that:
- The text of the song is everything!
- Know what the song says as well as what the song means to say.
- If you must sing 16 bars only, sing a song which makes a complete statement in 16 bars!
- Know what role the song plays in its original setting; to reveal character motivation, set up a dance, create conflict, resolve conflict, etc.
- Know the musical structure and shape of your song; verse, chorus, bridge, coda, meter, climax, etc.
- Apply all you know about acting to the song; i.e., objective, motivation, conflict, etc.
- Prepare as much for a song as you would for a monologue.
- Practice the song using no words, as a spoken monologue, as an improvised dance and in many different styles.
- Acting note – Remember that nothing is as boring as just giving information or being sarcastic.
- Make sure your acting choices serve the song and illuminate the lyrics.
- Practice in front of people…often!
With your audition just around the corner, now is the time to do the following:
- Make sure the accompaniment is simple, readable and in the proper key!
- If there are multiple pages to the song then bind them together in such a way as to make it easy for the accompanist to handle them.
- If you’re audition for a “Big Project” you may want to consider bringing your own pianist.
- If possible, try and find out the size of the audition space you’ll be singing in as this will have an effect on your performance choices and you won’t be caught off guard.
- Try rehearsing the entire audition and not just the song by itself; from the moment you hit the stage to the moment you exit.
Oh yes, and one more thing…sing as much as possible!
“I’d love to do a character with a wife, a nice little house, a couple of kids, a dog, maybe a bit of singing, and no guns and no killing, but nobody offers me those kinds of parts.” – Christopher Walken