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9 Tips for Successful Musical Theater Auditions

For anyone in the business that is "show", auditions are an uncomfortable necessity of life. We'd all like to think that one day, we'll be so well known that auditions are no longer needed, but for the 99.9% of working actors who tread the boards, auditions are here to stay. Here are a few musical theater audition tips to help make them less painful, and ultimately, more successful.

young woman performing on stage with pianist accompanying her

Julia Springer - Singer, Dancer, Actor (studied voice with Lori Moran)

1. Before the Audition - Do your homework!

Research the show and the role to know exactly what style you should be singing.

Find out who is on the creative team so you will know who is likely to be in the room – the director (most likely), the choreographer, the musical director, the accompanist (sometimes the musical director). This can give you insight into the type of work they’ve done & what they may be looking for. Pre-audition preparation is key.

Needless to say, you want to go into any audition with your material show-ready. Using songs &/or monologues you have actually performed for an audience will provide you with a confidence level you don't get with material you've just learned the week before. Too often, performers are so busy worrying about goofing up the lyrics, singing a wrong note, or suffering a memory lapse that they lose focus and derail their audition. (See 10 Tips for building your musical theater audition book.)

For this reason, you need to get in front of an audience - whether in a workshop, recital, open mic night - as often as possible to get your audition songs performance-ready. If you can't use something you've previously performed and feel really confident singing, take the time and book a few sessions with a vocal coach, acting coach, or voice teacher to work through your song(s)/monologues ahead of time (which you should be doing anyway).

2. Audition Attire - Dress for success

You don’t need to dress in character, but the style of the show should be taken into consideration when choosing your wardrobe. Dress comfortably, but not sloppily. Wear shoes you can walk in, stand in, sing in, and move in, if asked. (If there is a dance call, of course, bring your character shoes &/or ballet flats.) For women, I would caution against showing too much leg (no higher than mid-thigh) or cleavage. And for men, although a jacket & tie is not necessary (unless the character calls for it), you should never wear a t-shirt, shorts, flip-flops, etc.. That’s a bit too comfortable.

3. On Audition Day - Warm up

There usually isn’t anywhere to warm up when you arrive, and you won’t want to be singing your scales in the parking lot, so warm up your voice AND your body before you go to the audition with a good 20-30 minute vocal warmup and several overall body stretches. This will help calm your nerves and allow you to perform at your best.

Be sure to eat a light meal for energy - not right before you sing, but 2-3 hours prior to the audition. Steer clear of dairy and carbonated drinks, though. Bring water with you, and room-temperature water is best.

4. In the Audition Waiting Room - Stay focused

a group of young women seated in a waiting room

Arrive early, check in, and then find yourself a nice, quiet place to wait. Don't engage in small talk with other auditioners in the waiting area. Be cordial and certainly not unfriendly, but you need to stay focused, and you can get sabotaged by those you meet in the waiting room. Some of these people are likely to be your competition, so don't give them the edge by allowing them to drain your mental energy or derail your confidence just before you walk into the audition room.

5. Just before you go in - Loosen up

A few moments before you go into the audition room, stand up, walk around, take a few deep breaths to help you loosen up, get your breath flowing and blood moving. You never want to sit waiting for an hour or more, then stand up and immediately walk in and sing. Also, you can do quiet lip trills just before entering the audition room. This will get your low, diaphragmatic breath control engaged, ensuring that your first note will be "on the breath".

6. In the Audition Room - Happy talk

Walk into the audition room with confidence and an upbeat, happy demeanor. Greet the people in the room with a smile and a warm, “Hello!” Don't babble on or make excuses about being sick, etc... They are already judging the type of cast member you might be, based on that greeting. Don't give them any reason to think that you are unsure of yourself, or worse, a whiner or complainer. They want you to succeed, but they are looking for people who can do the job with the least amount of hand-holding...NOT someone who is potentially "high maintenance".

Remember – your ACTING is the most important thing. You must be able to sing well, but telling the story is paramount. Make yourself stand out from the other auditionees by doing your research, embodying the character, and acting/singing with confidence.

7. Accompanist Etiquette - Be kind

two hands playing piano

Give your music to the accompanist and show him/her the song(s) you have prepared, where the starting place is, and any important tempo or key changes (all of which should already be clearly marked). See "Do's and Don'ts of Preparing Sheet Music for Musical Theater Auditions". Give them your tempo, if necessary, but DON’T snap your fingers or clap the rhythm. Accompanists do not appreciate this. Just quietly sing a bit of the beginning of the song to give them the tempo. Be very friendly to the accompanist – they can make or break your audition, and if you are cast in the show, you may end up working with them, as they may also be the show accompanist/musical director.

It is also acceptable, and sometimes preferable, to bring your own accompanist, particularly if you are planning to sing something that is very tricky to play, since the audition accompanist may not be familiar with your song.

8. Show your appreciation

Be sure to thank the directors and the accompanist after singing.

Try to find out before you leave the audition (ask the monitor, if you aren't sure) the names of the people for whom you sang - and don't forget the casting assistant. If it's an Equity audition, it should be listed on the audition notice, but sometimes an additional casting person is attending who may not be listed. Be sure to ask so that you can follow up after the audition with a hand-written thank-you note to each person for whom you auditioned. Yes, it's old-fashioned, but it shows you have respect for them and the time and consideration they gave you. Here's a great article from Backstage on writing thank-you notes to casting directors.

Whether or not you get the part, they will remember you for the thoughtfulness, and chances are, eventfully, if you continue in this business, you will stand in front of these same people again. Directors and casting agents see so many people, so anything you can do to make yourself stand out (in a good way) is worth doing. You may have to do some investigating to find a mailing address for them. If you can't find a physical address, email, while not as personal, is an acceptable alternative.

9. After the Audition - Change of scenery

Finally, have something fun planned for yourself to do just after the audition. This is especially important for kids in the biz, but also applies to adults. We all tend to be hard on ourselves and nit-pick over every mistake, or worry ourselves sick until we hear if we get called back. Having something else to do immediately afterwards can take some of that edge off and allow you to clear your head.

If you don’t get cast, it doesn’t mean you didn’t do an awesome job in the audition. You may just not be what they are looking for at this time. But no audition is a waste of time. Every time you put yourself out there, someone sees you and they often keep those headshots and resumes of promising talent, even if they don’t use you in that particular show. You just never know when you might be auditioning for that same director again. And hopefully, every time you audition, you learn something you can use in the future!

And remember…the more auditions you do, the easier they become, so get out there!

Lori Moran and her colleagues at Lori Moran Music have coached hundreds of students who have gone on to star on Broadway, in national tours, film, television, commercials and concert stages. If you are seeking guidance in audition preparation, contact any of our voice teachers.


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