Picking the perfect musical theatre college audition song

Its that time of the year again, time to audition for musical theatre programs, which means its also time to find that perfect audition song.  This can seem like the most daunting part of the process and can consume hours and hours of your time.  Hopefully this guideline to picking a song on your own will help make the process a little easier.

First, answer the following questions:

What Voice Type are you?

What is your weight, height, eye color, hair color?

What age do you look (not what age you actually are)?

Who do people say you remind them of (celebrities)?

Then ask yourself and your friends which of the following descriptions they think fit you best:

GUYS:  Bad Boy, Jock, Quirky, Nerdy, Brainy, Leading Man, Executive, Slacker, Poet, Artist, Effeminate Gay, Nice Guy, Blue Collar Worker, Con Man, Creepy Weird Guy, Salesman, Jokester, Criminal

WOMEN:  Princess, Bad Girl, Awkward/Gawky, Valley Girl, Girl-Next-Door, Ingenue, Little Sister, Brain, Psycho-ex-girlfriend, Moody Outcast, Leading Lady, Poet, Artist, Vixen, Woman in Charge, Lesbian, Trailer Trash, Airhead, Bimbo, Saleswoman, Criminal, Nun

Colleges aren’t interested in how well you can transform yourself, they’re most interested in how well you know yourself and how well you can sell YOU.  You may find that you can play more than one type and that’s fine, but for this project, let’s narrow it down to 3-5 choices.  So take your list and of answers and write out your summary.

For example:

Belter, plays 18-25, 5’6″, 140lbs, Brown Hair, Green Eyes, look like an edgier Lea Michelle, fit Bad Girl, Vixen, Woman in Charge, Moody Outcast, Criminal type.

You now have an idea of where you do and don’t fit in.  While it may be hard to find the song that is absolutely perfect for you, it should be easy to see what’s absolutely NOT you.  You wouldn’t sing South Pacific, Beauty in the Beast, Elle in Legally Blonde, or Laurie in Oklahoma.  No matter how well you sing it, it’s not you.  Singing one of these songs will not represent who you are and will reflect negatively in your audition.

RESEARCH

Now that you know who you are and who you’re not, its time to do some work.  To start, visit http://www.stageagent.com  Select “PART FINDER”  Enter your age range “18-25”, choose F for female, for part size select “Lead, Supporting, Cameo”  for voice select “Belter and Mezzo” and under “Genre” select “Musical”.  For dance level start with N/A.

My search returns 12 pages of around 20 roles per page or almost 240 roles that fit your voice type.

If you decide you want to pay for a membership on this site, you can click on the character name and get a description for most roles.  Otherwise, make two lists: 1) Roles you know fit your type 2) Roles you don’t know at all – Be sure to include the name of the show next to the role name.

Next take the list of roles you don’t know and do two things:

1) Do a Yahoo or Google Image search for the name of the role, the show, and Broadway.  If you can’t find a Broadway production picture, then take off the “Broadway” and research for regional theatre photos.  Look at these photos to rule out obvious conflicts (i.e. Peppy Blonde Cheerleaders).  Remember the celebrity you looked up?  Think of that person while you’re going through this process and think to yourself, “Would I cast that celebrity in the role?”  If its a close yes, that’s something to consider.  If its a big NO, think of that too.  It doesn’t have to be the complete deciding factor, but it can help sometimes to take yourself out of the picture and put someone else in there who you’re familiar with watching.

2)  Take whatever’s left and look up the show synopsis on Wikipedia and http://www.GuideToMusicalTheatre.com  While reading, you will get an idea if the character is close to your type or not.  If they are, highlight the role and write a short description next to it.  If the page on either of these sites includes songs that character sings, write them down.  If the description mentions the name of the actress who debuted the role or other actresses who have played the role, write them down.  Also write down the year the show was written (some colleges ask for specific time periods to be represented).  If the character is completely wrong, cross it off.

RESULTS

You should now have a decent list of characters you could play.  If you’re lucky, you also have a decent list of songs that belong to each character.  For the roles you don’t have songs identified for, you have two options.

1)  Buy the Book “The New Broadway Song Companion” by David P. DeVenney.  This is a great resource you will use for years to come.  It lists most Broadway shows and many off-Broadway show telling you who sings each song, what vocal part it is, what the range is, and whether its a Ballad, Uptempo, Character, etc.

2)  Get on YouTube and type in the name of the Character and the Show and see what comes up.  As you do this, make notes on the songs you like and cross off the ones you don’t.  If its a duet or ensemble don’t necessarily count it out, you can always take a 16-32 bar cut from any song, your not only looking for strictly solo numbers.

If you chose #1 above, look up all the songs on YouTube, or do a 30-60 second preview on iTunes.  Either way, make notes on what you do and don’t like.

Still not having luck?

Go to http://www.ibdb.com  This site lists almost every musical and who played what part.  Take some of the names you wrote down above from Wikipedia and see what other roles they played.  You can also look up a show that has a role you like but maybe not the right song.  Click on the name of the actress who played that part and see what other roles they played.  Also scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on “Display replacement and/or transfer information”.  This will bring up a list of other actors/actresses who played the role.  Click on their names as well and see what other roles they’ve played.  Since this site only lists Broadway credits, you may also want to Google them, find their personal website, or look them up on Wikipedia and see what else they’ve done Regionally, on Tour, off-Broadway, and in concert.  Use the tools introduced above (looking up production photos, Wikipedia, YouTube, etc.) and see if this leads you anywhere.  It may take time, but you’ll find something.

Making a Choice

By this time, you should have a great list of possibilities.  You are looking for something that grabs the audition panel’s attention.  Think positive.  We hear so many ballads and after 10 in a row it gets depressing.  When someone comes in and lights up the room with a positive, upbeat, funny, or uplifting song it makes them standout.  Try to pick songs that engage another character, try to avoid songs that are about memories.

Most auditions will ask for an uptempo and a ballad.  If you’re a female, I suggest showing both your belt and mix or head voice.  Uptempos tend to be easier to belt and ballads tend to be better for mix/head.  I do however hear women who can do the opposite and it works great as well.

Try to avoid anything that seems overdone.  If there are 10,000 results on YouTube for one song and 250 for another, I’d suggest doing the 250 song.  Its less likely to be heard that day.  You don’t want to be confused with 10 other girls who sang the same song, you want to be the person with the great package that was really different.

And remember most of all – We want to like you.  So keep it simple, fun, and be real.

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