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Backstage Experts

5 Ways to Make Creative Repertoire Choices

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5 Ways to Make Creative Repertoire Choices

Your book of audition songs should be a representation of who you are, plain and simple. What you choose to sing tell us a lot about you; beyond simply letting us hear your voice, these pieces help us learn what kind of stories attract you, what ideas you think are important, and what you have to say to the world. The more inventive and specific your song choices are, the more interested creative teams can be in you and your work. While it is important to have some standard pieces in your book, there is also a place for finding some bolder, less expected options in selecting rep. Here are five ideas to jump-start your individuality:

1. Turn a duet/trio/ensemble into a solo. If you love “Light in the Piazza,” why not sing a verse of “Say it Somehow” instead of “The Beauty Is”? If you’re a Sondheim fan, couldn’t a section of “Our Time” work just as well as “Everybody Says Don’t”? Very often, ensemble pieces can be adapted into a solo form with minimal changes. Listen to a few of your favorite cast albums this week, and keep your ear open for these possibilities.  

2. Gender bend. An easy way for a song to feel fresh is to hear it in the opposite gender’s voice.  In the world of pop/rock music, this is a viable option in many cases; either a man or a woman could sing Gabe Dixon’s “Disappear” or Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” with no problem at all. This can be worth considering in musical theater rep as well; I love hearing a woman sing “Corner of the Sky” or a man do Frank Wildhorn’s “Gold.” Next time you are waiting at an audition, listen to the songs coming from the room, and ask yourself if a gender switch could work for that tune.

3. Adapt a song from TV. The golden age of the TV theme song may have come and gone, but there is still something so satisfying about repurposing a song like this. You could use this example that made the rounds earlier this year for inspiration. The sky is the limit; why not write some lyrics to the “Game of Thrones” theme song as your new comedy piece?

4. Sing a classic Disney song. Sure, we hear certain modern Disney tunes (“Let it G—” oh you know...) all the time, but it’s surprising how rarely the classics make it into auditions. “Some Day My Prince Will Come” is a great legit song, and “Candle on the Water” can be an effective choice for “Pippin” or “Godspell.” It’s always nice to take a little trip back to our childhood, and these songs are a direct route to great memories.

5. Rediscover a standard. In the early part of the 20th century, Tin Pan Alley composers cranked out a huge amount of tunes that are mostly now forgotten. Spend a couple of hours listening to the lesser-known repertoire of these geniuses. Here are the titles of a few of my favorite overlooked classics to get you started:  

George Gershwin: “My Cousin in Milwaukee,” “Jilted”
Cole Porter: “It’s Bad for Me,” “Swinging the Jinx Away”
Jerome Kern: “Remind Me,” “They Didn’t Believe Me”
Rodgers and Hart: “Mountain Greenery,” “Oh Diogenes!”
Harold Arlen: “It Was Written in the Stars,” “When the Sun Comes Out”
Irving Berlin: “No Strings,” “You’d Be Surprised”

Remember that we have chosen a creative life, and that creativity can and should find expression in your audition music. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

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Andrew Byrne is a voice teacher and Backstage Expert. For more information, check out Byrne’s full bio!

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