What is type?
Type is one of the most troubling issues facing many young performers. Type is a term the industry uses to define whether or not you physically look like someone who could realistically play a specific role. In high school, students are asked to play characters of all different ages, looks, and socio-economic backgrounds. The schools use costumes, make-up, and body language to make it work. However, in the real world, there are so many actors available that its fairly easy to find whatever you are looking for. If the casting director decides they want a 6’1″ tall girl, with red hair, size 8 dress, and size 9 shoes – he will probably find her. To help save time, casting directors use type as a way to describe what they want and eliminate what they don’t want before they waste time listening to people sing. If you do not look like the type normally associated with the repertoire you will be singing, you will not be taken seriously.
Gaston in Beauty and the Beast: Gaston is supposed to be a tall, strong, and manly. When Disney is casting the person has to be at least 6’1″. There is an expectation of the look and the voice quality. If you don’t fit the type, its fine to sing it for fun, but don’t take it into an audition. If you take it into an audition, you will confuse the panel and more than likely not be considered, or you may even get laughs which are not the kind of laughs you want.
Belle in Beauty in the Beast: Belle is supposed to beautiful, thin, and a soprano. If you are a short, curvy mezzo, with short black hair and a nose ring, singing “Home” is not the best audition choice for you. However, the material from “Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens” may suit you when many other girls can’t pull it off.
Type can seem limiting, but if you use it to your advantage, its liberating. When you start targeting the roles you are good for instead of targeting every audition possible, you’ll more than likely find better success.
To find your type, follow the steps listed below.
#1: Ask your friends/teachers what celebrities you remind them of and write down those names. Ask your friends what words they would use to describe you and write them down. Ask them if they were to cast you in their favorite movie, what character you would be, write it down. After asking several people, you should hopefully start seeing some similarities.
#2: Create a list with the most common terms your were given listed first. Circle the 3 to 5 terms that feel most comfortable to you.
#3: Research the celebrities your friends/teachers selected for you and write down the roles they have played in the past. After you have completed your list, cross of any of the roles that do not match the 3 to 5 terms you decided on in step #2
#4: You now have a list of terms that describe you and a list of characters you could play based on the celebrities who are similar to you. Begin looking through musical theatre synopses online (start by using Wikipedia – this will require that you read, possibly a lot) and write down the names of roles that sound like they fit you based on your work in steps 1-3.
#5: Look those characters up on YouTube. Watch scenes and songs and start making a list of the roles that really interest you, and the songs that you like.
#6: Using the book: The New Broadway Song Companion: An Annotated Guide to Musical Theatre Literature by Voice Type and Song Style, look up the range, style, composer, date of composition, librettist, and songs of each character you could play in a spreadsheet that you can refer back to for the rest of your career. This is the list you will use anytime you need to choose a song for a lesson/class.
#7: Using IBDB look up each show, write down the names of the actresses/actors who played the roles you would play. At the bottom of the page, select “Display Replacement Casts”. Write down the names of all the other actresses/actors who played those roles. Go back and search the name of each actress/actor and see what other roles they have played. Go online and look up their personal websites and/or Wikipedia entries. Write down the other roles they have played. Go back to step #6 and write down that info.
You will more than likely have too many songs to choose from rather than not enough after you have completed these steps. This is not a bad thing. You have the rest of your college career and early years in New York to sing these songs, pick the ones that seem most interesting to you now and start learning. If you do this work, you will have a major leg up on your competition!