While several Broadway performers have a range going to high heaven, lower female belters such as Angela Lansbury, Elaine Stritch, and Patti Lupone are also well-respected. However, with the current trends in musical theatre favoring high belters, altos might be short on finding audition repertoire that’s not overused. But fear not! Maybe this time, here we can hit you with a hot note!
Here are 10 overlooked audition songs for altos to consider:
1. “Teaching Third Grade” from Ruthless!
This show premiered Off-Broadway in 1992, and was revived there in 2015. In the musical, 8 year-old Tina Denmark is so determined to be a star that she would kill for it…literally. In this song, the schoolteacher Miss Thorn is comforting Tina’s mother, Judy, over Tina’s disappointment in being the understudy in the school play. Range: Eb3-B4.
2. “Special” from Avenue Q
This musical opened Off-Broadway in 2003 before transferring to Broadway the same year. It was one of the longest running Broadway shows of the 2000s, and won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical. This seductive number introduces the character Lucy the Slut, a provocative chanteuse. This song is great for auditioning for jazzy female-centered shows such as Chicago or Cabaret. Range: F3-Db5.
3. “Kiss of the Spider Woman” from Kiss of the Spider Woman
One of the later Kander and Ebb shows, this musical premiered at SUNY Purchase in 1990 before transferring to West End in 1992 and Broadway in 1993. This song is sung by Aurora, a diva whose role as the Spider Woman intimidates Molina, the man infatuated with her. This song is ideal for lower altos whose range is closer to Chita Rivera, who won a Tony for playing Aurora. Range: C#3-A4.
4. “Flaming Agnes” from I Do! I Do!
This two-character musical starring Mary Martin and Robert Preston premiered on Broadway in 1966, and was revived Off-Broadway in 1996. The story, which takes place over 50 years, looks at the marriage of Agnes and Michael Snow. In one scene, after Michael criticizes Agnes’ expensive shopping habits, the wife contemplates being a saucy divorcee. Range: D3-Db5.
5. “I’m Going Back” from Bells Are Ringing
87 This musical premiered on Broadway in 1956, and was revived there in 2001. The song “I’m Going Back,” was originally performed by Judy Holliday. It is sung at the end of the show, when Ella quits her job as a phone operator to start a new life with her lover Jeff. Range: Bb3-D5.
6. “The Cake I Had” from Grey Gardens
Based on the 1975 documentary on The Beatles, Grey Gardens premiered Off-Broadway in 2006 before transferring to Broadway the same year. Little Edie and her mother Edith live alone in the ruined estate of Grey Gardens. In this song, Edie regrets failing to succeed in New York City, whereas Edith regrets nothing and takes no blame for Edie’s shortcomings. Range: F#3-C#5.
7. “It’s an Art” from Working.
This musical with several co-authors premiered in Chicago in 1977 before transferring to Broadway the next year. The story is based on Stud Terkel’s book Working, which interviews people from various jobs and backgrounds. This song, written by Stephen Schwartz, is sung by the proud waitress Dolores Dante. Range: A3-D5.
8. “Lucky” from A Little Princess
Andrew Lippa’s adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic novel premiered in Los Angeles in 2004 before transferring Off-Broadway the next year. The song “Lucky,” sung by the headmistress Miss Minchin, refers to her jealousy over Sara Crew’s privileged upbringing. This song is useful in auditioning for similar antagonists. Range: G3-C5.
9. “It’s a Business” from Curtains
This late Kander and Ebb show premiered in Los Angeles in 2006 before transferring to Broadway the next year. The musical whodunit is about an actress who is murdered during her opening night curtain call. The song “It’s a Business” is sung by Carmen, a producer who reminds her estranged daughter Bambi (real name Elaine) that her main goal is to draw a profit from shows. Range: Eb3-Bb4.
10. “Kiss Her Now” from Dear World
This Jerry Herman show starring Angela Lansbury premiered on Broadway in 1969, and has never been revived there. In this song, the Countess Aurelia hopes for Julian, a young business executive, to make a move on Nina, a waitress. Range: F#3-A4.