Try These 10 Megamusical Songs at Your Next Audition

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A crashing chandelier, a turntable barricade, a life-size helicopter—if these dazzling set pieces evoke misty, water-colored memories of “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Misérables,” and “Miss Saigon,” then you already know all about megamusicals.

As the name implies, the early megamusicals leaned into a “bigger is better” mentality—from the budget to the cast size to the elaborate staging. While Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” is credited for kick-starting the megamusical era in the 1980s, it’s worth noting that ’70s-era blockbusters like “A Chorus Line,” “Chicago,” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” laid the groundwork for what was to come.

Of course, to be a global phenomenon, you need melodrama with universal themes—and catchy pop songs. But because these numbers are so well-known, there’s a risk in tackling them at an audition. “Be careful not to sing a tried-and-true song like a tried-and-true song,” advises L.A.-based vocal coach Steven Memel. “You may impress with your voice, but you’ll have people yawning. Instead, dig deep; immerse yourself into the dusty corners where most people don’t go to express true joy or true pain. When that happens, it will leave audiences breathless.”

Here, Memel rounds up a few of his favorite audition songs from megamusicals and shares tips on how to make them your own. 

Cats” (1981)

Audition song: “Memory”

“One of the greatest dangers in singing a classic is singing it by rote. You can’t do a surface rendition. Own it by…embodying the character in the world of the song—as if you are the first person to ever sing it. If you can accomplish that, your authenticity will awaken the listener. They will not be thinking about all the other times they’ve heard it, because the truth of your expression will be deeply compelling.”

Les Misérables” (1985)

Audition song: “Stars”

“You can see this side of a man who’s entranced by the delicacy and beauty of order. Then, when it goes into Javert’s feelings about his rival, Jean Valjean, it allows [you] the opportunity to show a whole other aggressive side. The juxtaposition that you can do vocally between those two emotions shows an enormous range.”

“The Phantom of the Opera” (1986)

Audition song: “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” 

“This song gives you the opportunity to show many facets of yourself as a performer—both with your acting and with the diverse tonal qualities needed to express the many emotions required in the song. You can demonstrate your range as a performer.”

Miss Saigon” (1989)

Audition songs: “The Movie in My Mind” or “Why God Why?”

“The expected song would be ‘I’d Give My Life for You,’ but these are excellent choices. You only have one song to make a powerful impression, so you want a vehicle to show the depth of both your emotional range and vocal range. [These] are songs that give you the opportunity to lean into them with passion, straight from your gut, straight from your heart. If you can convince me those are your predicaments, your trials, and [your] obstacles, you can win the day.”

Beauty and the Beast” (1994)

Audition songs: “If I Can’t Love Her,” “Me,” or “Something There”

“ ‘If I Can’t Love Her’ allows you to express the anguish the Beast goes through—a central emotion to the character. With ‘Me,’ the person Gaston loves most in the world is Gaston. You have a real opportunity to authentically convey there’s nothing better in all of creation than yourself. If you can convince me of that, you’ve got me. I’m all in. With ‘Something There,’ you get to portray Belle’s ambivalence with both your acting and your voice.”

The Lion King” (1997)

Audition songs: “Be Prepared” or “Shadowland”

“For ‘Be Prepared,’ you need to show you are not limited to a caricature of evil, but that you make me authentically fear you. And then ‘Shadowland’… it’s just such a moving song. If you can make it come alive, it will be startling.”

Steven Memel (stevenmemel.com) is a Los Angeles–based voice and performance coach. He has worked with Maroon 5, Sara Bareilles, Drew Barrymore, Isabella Rossellini, and many more artists. He has taught at Musicians Institute, UCLA, and USC, and is a regular speaker at seminars, conferences, and universities around the world.

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