A music sheet

15 musical theatre audition tips

By BBC Maestro

Your agent has called you up and given you some good news: you’ve got an audition. If you’re new to musical theatre, this can seem like a daunting prospect. However, with preparation and know-how, you can step in front of that audition panel feeling super-confident and ready to perform.

As legendary lyricist Sir Tim Rice explains, “Auditions are an inevitable part of any performer’s career.” If you want a career in musical theatre, you’ll need to learn how to impress at auditions.

In this article, we’ll take you through how to prepare for a musical audition, along with helpful tips from the experts.

Pre-audition Prep 

Whether you have a few months to prepare for your audition or just a few days, here are some tips to take with you ahead of audition day.

1. Choose the right material 

Top casting director Jane Deitch describes song choice as key: “You can scupper your chances on just the wrong song.” She advises choosing a song that isn’t from the show itself, but is “in the style of the show”. The brief from the audition panel may even specify this. 
 
Within the brief, pick a song you feel confident with and suits your voice. Sir Tim Rice suggests that if there’s no brief for the audition material, choose something humorous rather than serious “because people sitting through endless auditions… get brightened up a bit by a funny song.” 

2. Prepare a spare 

You’ve found what feels like the perfect song: now choose some more. Go through your repertoire and find a few other songs that you would feel confident performing, just in case you’re asked to perform something different, which can certainly happen. Again, think about the points above, but also make sure that all your songs are distinct from each other. 
 
A related tip: keep your sheet music neatly in wallets, and never hand the pianist a wodge of loose papers. If you have a way to clearly store and index your separate songs, so you’re not rummaging through your bag, even better. 

3. Research the song and character  

If you’re performing a song from a show, find out the context. Where does it come in the story, and what is the character going through at the time? Can you relate this to your own experience, so you can bring truth to the performance? 
 
What is Jane Deitch’s advice for interpreting a song, especially a well-known one? 
 
“Keep true to the original, but bring your own twist to it as well… You made it your own, but it was still the song.” 
 
Even if this isn’t the interpretation the audition panel is looking for, an intelligent treatment of the song may gain you points for imagination and bravery. If you can, book a session with a singing coach to go through the pieces with you. 

4. Who is on the panel? 

You’ll find the audition experience less intimidating if you know who’s on the panel. Hopefully your agent will have briefed you, but if not, get in touch and ask them to. It’s likely to be the director, the musical director, the choreographer and the casting director, and there’ll also be an accompanist. An additional tip from Jane Deitch: if you’ve met someone on the panel previously, acknowledge this. They’ll remember you, so show that you recognise them, too.  

5. Pack your bag 

Get everything organised the night before, so you can focus on preparing yourself in the morning rather than your bag. Double-check the brief for anything extra you need to bring, such as dance shoes. In the flurry of audition packing, don’t forget the everyday essentials like train tickets, a phone charger and bottled water. 

6. Get an early night 

Take it easy the night before. Stay home, rest and relax, and stop rehearsing for the evening. Eat healthily and drink plenty of water – no alcohol, sugary drinks or caffeine.

Tips for audition day 

From choosing what to wear on the big day to leaving a positive impression, here are some tips to have in your back pocket on audition day.

7. Dress appropriately 

There may be a dress code in the brief (for example, bring or wear clothes you can dance in), so follow this. Otherwise, choose something that you feel comfortable and confident in, and that you can move around in easily.

A person with long curly hair sings into a microphone

8. Warm up your voice and your body 

Make sure you’ve warmed up vocally before the audition and that you’ve been drinking plenty of water since you got up. Even if your audition is unlikely to involve movement, your body will feel more relaxed and natural if your muscles are stretched and warmed up.  

9. Engage with the accompanist  

Greet the accompanist (usually a pianist), and don’t be afraid to take a moment to talk through any specifics with them when you give them your sheet music. Thank them again at the end of the audition, A, because you’re a polite person and the pianist has just helped you, and B because the panel will notice – especially if you don’t.  

10. Tell the story

The panel will be looking for your ability to tell the story as well as sing. This is where all your preparation will pay off: you understand the song and character, you’ve practised and you’re confident. Introduce yourself and the piece, then show them exactly how good you are. 

11. Be nice  

If you’re auditioning for a musical with no experience, one of the top tips any seasoned pro will give you is “Be nice” to everyone you meet during the process. Jane Deitch points out that casting teams do remember people, and you want to be thought of as someone pleasant and courteous to work with. 

General audition tips 

If the nerves are starting to hit, try reminding yourself of one of these important pieces of advice.

12. Remember – you’re a professional 

When you step out in front of the panel, it can feel intimidating. Jane Deitch advises auditionees to think, “I’m a professional” when they’re called to perform. Don’t feel that the panel are the powerful ones – everyone in the room is a professional, you included. 

13. Don’t take it personally 

If you’ve got as far as an audition, you’re clearly good and are considered suitable for the role. If you weren’t successful this time, it could simply be because someone else was a better fit for this particular part, which could even be down to physical type rather than talent. Be resilient, don’t give up and never take it personally. 

14. Keep match fit 

Jane Deitch recommends keeping “match fit” between auditions by attending workshops and classes and simply singing a lot. Be ready for your next audition by taking care of your voice and not becoming “rusty”. 

15. Remember that auditions are part of your job 

We’ll finish our tips on how to prepare for auditions with further wise words from Jane Deitch: 
 
“Think of an audition as part of your job.” 
 
You’re not “out of work” when you’re auditioning. Keep training and learning, and take on board any feedback you get at auditions. If you’re serious about auditioning for Broadway musicals, this is now your job. 
 
 
 
Find out more about the audition process in Sir Tim Rice’s BBC Maestro course, Writing and Performing Musical Theatre. The famous lyricist takes us through all aspects of the world of musical theatre, from how to write a hit song to performance tips. 

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