6 Ways to Nail Your Next Musical Theater Audition

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The life of a musical theater actor isn’t an easy one, particularly if you’re just starting out. From training to being familiar with the terminology and major industry players, there is a lot that goes along with the feat and this week, Backstage is giving you the lowdown on how to become a musical theater actor.

Out of all the aspects of becoming a musical theater actor, though, auditioning certainly rises to the top as far as importance and consequence. (How else are you going to book gigs?) Therefore, we’re paying the matter some extra attention. Below, we’ve consulted with Backstage Experts, who all shared their wisdom for how to completely kill your next MT audition.

Warm up—and not just your voice.
“Most singers warm up their voices before they sing but many forget their body is connected to their voice. Warm up your body first and your voice will warm up faster! This is great news when you have a heavy performance or rehearsal load. Tension is a singer’s worst enemy and releasing tension in your body frees up your vocals without having to sing a note.

“Along with inhibition and lack of specificity, failing to do a physical warm up is also partially to blame for the ‘no lower body’ syndrome I see in so many singers who sing from the waist, but are disconnected below that. A physical warm up incorporating your whole body is a step in the right direction.” —Philip Hernández, New York City-based acting coach and working actor

Get to the point, without apology.
“When your name is called, walk into the room with confidence. Have your organized music binder under your arm and head directly over to the accompanist. Give brief but specific instructions to the accompanist regarding tempo and any other notes you may have in order to have him/her play the very best for you. Walk into the center of the room in front of the panel, and should they ask you what you are singing, state the name of song and then start with no delay or apology. As I mention above, trust in the power of the song’s words (and yourself as a singer). Stillness is your friend here. Hands down by your side. You are not stiff by any means, but instead presenting a clean, crisp image. Keep your eyes open and sing over the heads of the panel instead of looking them directly in the eyes.Once your song has ended, immediately thank the panel and start out the door, not forgetting to collect your book from the accompanist.” —Duncan Stewart, CSA casting director + owner/partner of Stewart/Whitley in New York City

The organization of your book is essential.
“When it comes to the organization of your book, the main goal is to make your music easy to locate quickly. Remember that you never know what you’re going to be asked to sing in any given audition. The 'flipping time'—when an actor is frantically looking through their binder for that one song that’s perfect for what the director wants to hear—is deadly. You want to keep our attention throughout your audition, and while you’re flipping through music, we may check out. Therefore, you need an organizational strategy, including a table of contents at the front of the binder. I prefer you organize your music either alphabetically or by category (classic musicals, contemporary musicals, pop-rock, comedy, etc.).” —Andrew Byrne, voice teacher

Shake off the inferiority complex.
“Come to do the work you love so much, not to please or get our approval. Enter with certainty. Don’t give up your power as soon as the door opens. Play on a level playing field. We’re all figuring it out. Together. Make no excuses whatsoever. Leave your baggage outside. Better yet, leave it at home. Make the room your own. It will make us so much more comfortable and engaged.” —Risa Bramon García, co-owner The BGB Studio

Embrace audition jitters.
“Auditions engage the flight part of the brain because you are literally exposing the softest part of yourself to a room full of strangers. The increased heart rate and butterflies in the stomach are actually your body trying not to run. Remember, we come prepackaged with these instincts so relax and accept the fact that if you’re a little nervous, it’s not your fault. Beating yourself up by thinking that you’re doing something wrong by having some nerves only adds another level of anxiety and tension and the nerves become even worse. It’s like screaming, ‘Shut up!’ at a crying baby—it doesn’t work. When you accept the nerves and see them as a natural part of being alive, they calm down and you’re less likely to be taken over by them.” —Craig Wallace, creator + teacher of the Wallace Audition Technique

Pack a hold-all bag the night before.
“Long ago, moms figured out that, if they were going to have a successful outing away from home with a baby, they’d better bring along a bag containing everything their baby might possibly need while they’re out. I learned this the hard way when I foolishly took the baby with me to run some errands without one. It was not pretty.

“As an actor, you should have an ‘audition diaper bag’ you can just grab on your way out the door that has everything you might possibly need for your audition. Photos, resumés, business cards, audition log, hairbrush, makeup, breath freshener, umbrella, water, a snack, something to write with, something to read, etc. You get the idea. And don’t forget to pack your book before you turn in for the night so you don’t leave without it in the morning.” —Hernández

You've got the tools, now go get the gig! Browse Backstage's musical theater audition listings!

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