Do you struggle to find musical theatre repertoire for yourself? One of the best pieces of advice I can offer is: know your Broadway Doppelgängers. A doppelgänger is a look-alike or double of a specific person. In this context, Broadway Doppelgängers are well-known musical theatre performers who look AND sound like you. I know many of us like to think we’re 100% individual in every way, shape, and form, but the truth is… we’re not. Chances are, there are people out there in the professional musical theatre world who look and sound like us (to varying degrees). This can be a good thing.
Why is it important to know who these actors/actresses are? For one thing, ‘typing’ is a big part of professional musical theatre casting today. In the theatre industry, a performer’s ‘type’ primarily refers to his/her physical appearance in relation to the role he/she is auditioning for. This is determined by criteria like age, weight, height, build, hair color/style, etc. Example: if you’re auditioning for Gaston in a professional production of Beauty and the Beast, you better be a tall, brawny, lumberjack-looking guy who looks like he just got back from chopping down a red oak tree. If you’re a short, skinny, nerdy fellow, chances are you aren’t going to get the part no matter how great you sing and act. That’s just the reality. However, if you want to sing Gaston’s songs for fun or as part of a concert/recital, that’s fine. Just don’t bring one of those songs into a professional audition room (that shows the panel you haven’t done your homework).
Identifying your Broadway Doppelgängers can also help you track down a TON of great new musical theatre repertoire to sing. How so? You can just search their names on YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, etc. There, you will likely find many clips of these actors/actresses singing various types of musical theatre repertoire. You can also search their names on sites like IBDB.com and AboutTheArtists.com to find a list of roles they have played over the years. This can help you figure out what roles you are physically and vocally right for. Make sure to note the names of understudies, swings, and replacements for specific roles as well so you can search those people later on if needed. Using this method alone, you can find MANY new songs.
So, how do you find your Broadway Doppelgängers? I suggest following these steps:
1. Answer the following questions:
- What is your general voice type (ex. baritone/bass, baritenor, tenor, low female belter, high female belter, legit soprano, etc.)?
- What musical theatre vocal styles are you must comfortable with (legit, traditional musical theatre, contemporary musical theatre, pop/rock, etc.)?
- What is your physical appearance like (height, weight, build, hair color/style, eye color, etc.)?
- What character age range could your realistically play (choose one or two of these ranges: 13-17, 18-25, 25-35, 35-50, 50+)?
- What celebrity or celebrities do people say you look like most often?
- What five adjectives best describe your personality?
Here are my answers to these questions:
- traditional and contemporary musical theatre
- 5’6″, 125 lbs, average build, mid-length brown hair, green eyes
- 18-25, 25-35
- Neil Patrick Harris (aside from the height difference- we’re big forehead twins)
- nerdy, soft-spoken, focused, introverted, creative
These answers give me an idea of what my strengths are as a performer and help me figure out what type of roles I would NOT be cast as. For example, I’m obviously never going to play Gaston. I also probably won’t be cast as a lead in a pop/rock musical like Next to Normal or American Idiot because I don’t sing those styles as often (though I dabble). The five personality adjectives I wrote may be helpful, but if you’re really good at inhabiting different kinds of characters, your adjectives may not be AS useful to you. Still, it is a good idea to be yourself as much as possible in auditions, so make sure to play on your singing, acting, and personality strengths.
2. Use available resources.
Musicaltheatersongs.com is a fabulous new repertoire database website created by New York City music director, Steven Gross. I strongly suggest getting an account on the site if you can afford it. Then, use the search options/filters to search for your voice type, character age range, and any other criteria you want. You will likely get quite a few song results to choose from. Look up these songs on YouTube one by one until you start finding pieces that are performed by actors/actresses who look AND sound somewhat like you. Make note of these songs and performers. Also note the songwriters who wrote each of these pieces so you can search for more of their work later on. Oh, and make sure you actually like and connect to the songs you choose. Never perform a song in an audition that you don’t have some sort of personal connection to.
Alternatively, or in addition to the above: ask people who are knowledgeable about musical theatre what actors/actresses they think you look and sound like. Then join musical theatre Facebook groups and ask folks there as well (you may need to post a sample video of you singing). This should give you some additional doppelgänger ideas.
I hope the steps and guidance above help you find your Broadway Doppelgängers along with some great musical theatre repertoire to sing! If you need help selecting audition repertoire and/or building your audition book, check out my new musical theatre and pop/rock repertoire consulting business, The Repertoire Guru.