The journey to picking the perfect audition song can be long and exhausting. Finding something that fits the show’s style and makes you sound unique among other auditionees can take much research and preparation. Should you sing a ballad? An up-tempo number? Contemporary ditty? Classical? Too Sondheim or not too Sondheim?
Don’t panic! Here are some tips to picking the perfect song choice to nail an audition
1. Choose The Right Key
First and foremost, you must make sure the song you choose is in a key that makes you sound phenomenal. You certainly don’t want to be screaming and you don’t want to end up doing an awkward flip into head voice when trying to belt high notes like Sutton Foster. Simply transpose the song into a key that fits your vocal range. It’s so easy nowadays to transpose music through the internet with the countless sheet music websites that are available, so take the time and pick the perfect key for you.
A great resource for finding Broadway songs and transposing them into your key is: http://www.musicnotes.com/broadway/
2. Find An Emotional Connection
Develop a connection with the song you choose. Take emotional moments from your personal life and use them in your audition. Study the lyrics beforehand and know exactly how your character feels during each word of the song. It may also help to perform the lyrics as a monologue prior to singing through them. Casting directors can tell whether or not you are invested while singing, so make sure you can connect to your chosen piece.
3. Tell A Story
The most important thing to do whenever you are performing is to tell a story. Yes, we all get nervous and yes, voice cracks happen, but you must stop worrying about everything that could go wrong and focus on telling the piece’s story. Once your emotional connection is found, this step is a piece of cake. Don’t believe me? Randy Graff, original Broadway Fantine in Les Miserables, cracked on every high note in her audition for the show and still booked the part. Stop worrying about the inevitable and focus on the few things that you can control in an audition. What you lack vocally, you can make up for by strong and convincing story telling.
4. Don’t Sing from the Show
Singing from the show your auditioning for can limit the roles casting directors see you in, and ultimately narrows your chances at being cast. Doing this can also make you seem very unoriginal; directors are looking for a refreshing song that separates you out from the crowd. However, there are times when singing from the show is acceptable. If you’re going to an EPA (Equity Principal Audition) and only fit one role in the show and can perfectly sing that character’s number, it is most likely okay to sing that song. Mo Brady, who played Lucas in Broadway’s The Addams Family, sang from the show and booked the role. It’s a ballsy move, but if you have the talent and guts to pull it off, go for it. Most of the time, however, especially for open chorus calls, it’s wise to stray from singing a song from the show you are auditioning for.
5. Take Risks
Casting directors see hundreds of hopefuls every single day. Chances are that a few other people will be singing the same song as you. Take risks, find ways to stand out, and make bold acting choices. Consider adding riffs if deemed appropriate to your song selection. Haven Burton, seen on Broadway many times including in Shrek and Violet, took a chance in her audition for Diaster! Off-Broadway by riffing up a storm in “Part of Your World” and adding strong bits of comedy to the song. Guess what? She booked the role! Taking risks will make you more memorable to the casting directors and will certainly help you book the job.
6. Be You
At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember when auditioning is to be you. You are not Idina Menzel or Patti Lupone or Sutton Foster (and that’s okay!). Be original and be yourself. Don’t try to sound or act like these great stars because you simply can’t be them. Casting directors want to cast YOU, so show them who you truly are through your song.