Top five audition tips for musical theatre

It takes hard work, great training and a smart audition approach to win coveted musical theatre roles. Vocal and performing arts coach Camiah Mingorance shares her top tips to ace auditions.

1 Know your Type and audition for it
Every singing actor has a look, an energy and a personality that fits certain roles. For instance, a young, pretty and innocent woman with a pretty mix voice and legit voice sound should avoid auditioning for Morticia in The Addam’s Family and instead try for roles like Julie in Carousel, Johanna in Sweeney Todd or Tuptim in The King and I. This is the “Ingenue Type” and most women can only play this Type for a short period of their career (sorry but it’s true). If you’re a heavy-set, shorter, comedic actor then you need to be auditioning for roles like Boq in Wicked, Dewey in School of Rock or Slug in Kiss Me Kate. Don’t waste your time or energy auditioning for leading man roles, because a casting director is never going to consider you for that type of role based on your physical appearance. If you’re not sure of your Type, talk to an acting teacher, director or other actors with professional experience. Knowing your Type and what you offer, helps you focus on the right auditions, giving you a better chance of being cast. Work smarter!


2 Dress for your Type
If you’re a quirky character actor and that’s the kind of role you’re auditioning for, then don’t be shy about wearing that Batman bow tie or that fantastic t-shirt that you got from your favourite indie music concert. Don’t dress for the character, however. Please don’t wear something red because you’re auditioning for Little Red in Into The Woods. Wear something that you would wear to party with friends where you were going to meet new people. It needs to look like you. It needs to fit your Type. It needs to be comfortable (avoid heels that make moving around a challenge). It needs to be flattering to your body and complexion. If you’re the Sexy Leading Lady Type, you don’t need to show a lot of skin, but wear something that shows your figure. If your personality leads to Classy Leading Lady, then a form-fitting dress would be a great choice.


3 Act the song
Many great singers focus so much on their vocals that they forget there’s a story to be told through that song. This may feel challenging when you’re only given 16 bars, but it’s still possible. Have a clear idea of who you are speaking to in your cut (out of context of the show that the song is from). Have an objective – something that you want from that person. Make the stakes high, meaning if you don’t get what you want from that person the consequences for you are significant. This approach helps you fully invest in the “conversation” that needs to happen in your song. See the person’s reactions to you and let those reactions affect you. Let us know at the end if you’ve won or not. Including this type of detailed work in your audition cut makes you stand out from all the other great singers who forget to act the song.


4 Do your research
Know every role of the show that you are auditioning for. Understand how those characters feel about each other, what their objectives are, the challenges they each face and the purpose they play in the show overall. Find out who has played the role you are auditioning for in past years. See how each actor has taken a slightly different spin on the same role. This information helps you make smart and specific choices during an audition and a callback that fit your Type and the goals of the creative team. That means you need to understand the goals of the creative team. Find out everything you can about the director’s vision for the show. Ask about the music director, choreographer and producer; your agent should have information for you. If you have no representation, then ask the contacts you have in the musical theatre community (although keep in mind you’ll probably get better information from an actor who isn’t going for the same role as you at the auditions). Musical theatre is a small and tight-knit community – somebody knows somebody who’s in the know about that production and its current team.


5 Solve problems
From the audition process to the casting decisions and throughout the run of a show, there are a multitude of problems that arise and need immediate solutions. Be the solution. When you step into an audition, don’t be the singer that makes the pianist’s life harder by asking them to flip through pages of sheet music to keep up with your crazy cut. If your cut is complicated, physically cut the sheet music and tape it back together in an easy-to-read order so your pianist can concentrate on playing your song well. If you’re reading an intense scene at callbacks, come in knowing the background of the scene and be committed to delivering it authentically. If you’re asked to do something crazy (as long as it doesn’t cross important lines for you personally), go with it. Frequently, a casting director simply needs to see how malleable you are or if you’re willing to take risks with material. If dancing is a strength for you, then step up to the front of that audition room and get noticed for all the problems you can solve for the choreographer.

Camiah has been performing and singing professionally for years, notably as the female lead in The Forgotten Carols eastern tour for the last two years. She has been teaching voice, theatre and music for the past 18 years and has had the honour of music directing for the renowned Dave Clemmons, as well as many other local theatre companies in Atlanta, Georgia, US. Camiah is also the Director of Music for The Performer’s Warehouse, a performing arts school in Atlanta that specialises in preparing young and adult artists for professional and college musical theatre auditions. Her clients attend some of the top musical theatre programmes in the US and the UK and can be seen from Broadway to national tours. She is a proud member of Pan American Vocology Association and Vocology in Practice, where she trains with the world’s leading professionals in all things voice.