Spring is audition season for many in theatre world, so I want to offer up this quick checklist with guidelines for choosing appropriate musical theatre audition rep. There may be other considerations as well, but these are the biggies. If you or your student choose an audition piece that does not meet the criteria below, that piece should NOT be used for auditions. It’s as simple as that. If you need assistance selecting appropriate musical theatre rep to sing, please check out my new repertoire consulting business at www.therepertoireguru.com.

“I will sing a song for auditions that…”

  • I have a personal connection to as an actor/actress, a musician, and a human being.
  • I have researched thoroughly and understand my character’s motivations and personal journey throughout the piece and overall show.
  • I have practiced and prepared diligently.
  • I have performed and received feedback on before the auditions.
  • is stylistically appropriate for the show and/or venue I am auditioning for.
  • shows off my vocal and acting strengths as a performer.
  • was written for a character and performer around my age.
  • was written for actors/actresses with a similar physical ‘type’ as me.
  • is not overdone.
  • will make me memorable as a performer to audition committees.
  • has a good, stylistically appropriate accompaniment that will elevate my performance rather than distract from it.
  • has a straightforward and clearly marked score my accompanist can follow with ease.
  • makes sense as an audition cut with a clear beginning, middle, and end (when possible).

“I will NOT sing a song for auditions that…”

  • I have no personal connection to as an actor/actress, a musician, and a human being.
  • I have not researched thoroughly and do not understand my character’s motivations and personal journey throughout the song and overall show.
  • I have not practiced and prepared diligently.
  • I have not performed and received feedback on before the auditions.
  • is stylistically inappropriate for the show and/or venue I am auditioning for.
  • highlights my singing and acting weaknesses.
  • was written for a character and performer nowhere near my age.
  • was written for actors/actresses who look and sound nothing like me.
  • is overdone.
  • is forgettable or is too obscure.
  • has a bad accompaniment that distracts from my performance.
  • has a complex, poorly marked score that is difficult for my accompanist to follow.
  • does NOT make sense as audition cut.

Kevin Michael Jones

9 thoughts

  1. I agree with everything on your checklist except:

    -was written for a character and performer around my age.
    -was written for actors/actresses with a similar physical ‘type’ as me.

    If an artist can make the song their own go forth. If done well (and that is of course a big if) a song typically sung by a different “type” can be that thing that will make the performer “memorable.”

    1. Thanks for your comment, Peter. I respectfully disagree. Typing is still a big part of professional musical theatre casting today in many cases. If a young actor/actress walks into an audition and sings a song written for a 60+ year old character, there is a good chance the audition committee is going to notice and assume that performer has not done his/her show and character homework. Likewise, if a performer sings a song written for a character who looks nothing like them (ex.. a short, lanky guy sings one of Gaston songs from Beauty and the Beast), the audition committee may think the same. This is not always the case, true, but I firmly believe it is better to be safe than sorry. There is no reason to give the director/music director/etc. reason to believe the performer has not done his/her research.

      Kevin

      1. It is sad to think that any professional director or musical director wouldn’t have enough imagination and/or intuition to see that a performer might be working a different take on a song.

        I’m looking for a level of creativity and artistry on the part of the performer – not just someone who is going to do what is expected. Besides there are many songs that defy age/type – So Many People from Saturday Night comes to mind. Are you to tell me that only college age actors could pull that off in any sort of authentic way? It could be sung by a man or woman of any age or type – what is important is that the story is told – in this case that one’s romantic ideal has been turned on its head.

        At the end of the day in an audition I want to get to know a little bit about each artist. Song choice is a part of that. Show me you can think for yourself and make creative choices that are your own. I get excited when an artist brings something to the table that I haven’t considered. It’s a collaboration after all and I’m looking for actors who will bring ideas beyond the ones I’m expecting.

        I may not hold the opinion of a majority – but for me telling a story is more important than showing me you know your type.

        In any case, I appreciate the conversation and your blog – I’ve enjoyed many posts and share often.

      2. Dear Kevin,

        I know I’m a bit late to this article but I have an audition on tomorrow and still don’t have a song… I’m 12 and auditioning for the secret garden I don’t want to do Annie but it’s all I know…. please help me

    2. I agree Peter.” Written for a character my age”, etc, is not always necessary. On Playbill’s 70 actors share their audition songs Peter Kunken lists ,” I Feel Pretty”. I like to do “I Enjoy Being a Girl” ( male here), if the role is comic. You have to know WHAT you are auditing for an use an appropriate song for that. All you ever hear is ..”take a risk”,. Well take one ( make They say that falling in love is wonderful), and do it well.

  2. This was so helpful, thank you so much! I’m currently a high school student auditioning for the advanced choir program at our school, and one of the audition requirements is to learn & sing a song that demonstrates our vocal ability at its best. Choosing a song has been very difficult, but I’m starting to get an idea about what song I’d like to sing. Wish me luck on getting into the program- I am the definition of a choir geek, instead of listening to Justin Bieber, I listen to Eric Whitacre🙂 Thank you so much for your helpful posts!

  3. Regarding “was written for a character and performer around my age”

    I assume that doesn’t apply for all-adult cast versions of musicals that are usually played by children/teens?

  4. Hi there. Thanks for the post. In response to the ‘overdone’ bit, I was having this conversation with a colleague the other day about the ‘bad list’. Those songs which apparently auditioners won’t entertain or will turn red at the mention of. Is this really, really, true and where/how do *personally* verify that list? If the performer is perfectly suited to the song, ticks all the boxes and sings it divinely are we saying that an overdone song (like something from Les Mis) is an absolute no no?
    I also think going too obscure with choices is driven by the fear of coming too close to the overdone list. And let’s face it, the overdone grapevine is often contributed to by miserable casting directors who have had a bad week with that song or show, or singers palmed off with that who actually did a poor job of it in an audition. As soon as a musical blows up it’s overdone. If it’s currently on broadway or the west end you’re sailing close. Any Andrew Lloyd Webber. Soon, every non-obscure song will reputably have been on that list due to the hysteria of auditionees trying to be successful.
    I’d love to know your thoughts on this. I’m not saying there isn’t a list, but I’m feeling the list has got a little out of proportion. Many thanks Kevin.

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