A person singing on stage

10 rousing alto musical theatre songs for auditions

By BBC Maestro

If you’re an alto hoping to get into musical theatre, or an experienced pro looking to land your next gig, you’re in luck.

Altos have rich, resonant voices that add depth to any character, and can stir up profound emotions – perfect for leaving a lasting impression at your audition. With that in mind, here are some of the best alto musical theatre songs to choose from for your next audition.

What songs are best for altos?

First things first, let’s clarify what we mean when we talk about altos. Alto voices fall in between the tenor and the soprano vocal ranges and are of a strong middle and lower register. Think Cher, Ella Fitzgerald and Norah Jones.

Many musical theatre songs for leading ladies are written for sopranos, who have higher vocal ranges. But that doesn’t mean that there are no Broadway songs for altos.

While sopranos typically take the leading roles in musicals, altos often get the meatier character parts. The characters might be more mature or more complex, or they may be the comic relief. Some of the most memorable characters from musicals are altos. From Grizabella the Glamour Cat from Cats to Matron “Mama” Morton from Chicago, when you play an alto, you really get the chance to flex your acting muscles as well as your singing ones.

You want to put your best foot forward at any audition. When choosing an audition song, you’ll want to opt for one with low and mid-range tones, which is where altos excel. You should also choose a song you can emotionally connect with – as when a song resonates with you, you’re more likely to give a stand-out performance.

Audition songs for altos

You should try to tailor your song choice to the character you’re auditioning for, but with that in mind, here are some of the best alto audition songs for musical theatre to show off your vocal range and make a real impression.

1. When You’re Good to Mama from Chicago

A fan favourite, this sassy and sultry song is sung by the no-nonsense, larger-than-life prison warden, Matron ‘Mama’ Morton. The song emphasizes the importance of getting on Mama’s good side – as all who treat Mama right will get special favours inside prison.

The jazzy song is upbeat and catchy, with lyrics that are full of wordplay and double entendre. It’s perfect for showing off your personality and versatility, giving you plenty of opportunity to showcase your confidence and charisma as a performer.

2. I Dreamed a Dream from Les Misérables

One of the most iconic songs from Les Mis, I Dreamed A Dream is sung by Fantine, one of the musical’s central characters, as she reflects on the hopes she once had for a better life.

The song is emotional and poignant, and allows the actress playing Fantine to deliver a stirring, impactful performance. It’s not only one of the best-known songs in Les Mis, but one of the most celebrated songs in the world of musicals. But don’t let the fact that it’s well-known put you off singing it in an audition. There’s still plenty of room to add your own interpretation and show off your powerful vocal range.

3. Memory from Cats

Cats is one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most famous musicals, and “Memory” is one of its stand-out songs. It’s a solo performed by Grizabella, a former Glamour Cat who has fallen from grace. In the song, she looks back on her life and expresses her desire for a better life.

It’s an emotional, introspective song that starts slowly and softly and builds to a dramatic climax, giving you the chance to showcase your vocal range and deliver a heartfelt performance that wows the panel.

4. Send in the Clowns from A Little Night Music

Send in the Clowns from Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music is perfect for low, rich voices. A deeply emotional ballad, it’s sung by the character of Desirée as she reflects on her life’s disappointments – including unrequited love, which prompts her to sing this song.

The song is known for its emotional depth, conveyed both through the singer’s performance and the clever wordplay of the lyrics. When you choose Send in the Clowns for your audition song, you’ll be telling an entire story through song – and with that, you’ll get the chance to show the depth of both your acting and singing skills.

5. There Are Worse Things I Could Do from Grease

Forget about Sandy and Danny. Rizzo steals the show in Grease with this heartfelt ballad that cracks her tough-girl exterior to show her softer side. Rizzo is self-assured and rebellious, which results in a lot of criticism and judgement in a straight-laced 1950s society. But she’s determined not to cave into societal expectations as, she explains, “there are worse things I could do”. 

It’s the song that humanises Rizzo’s character, allowing the audience to see that there’s more to her behind the hard, quick-witted exterior. There Are Worse Things I Could Do is all about being unapologetically yourself, giving you the opportunity to deliver a rousing performance while exploring the character’s development within just a few short minutes.

6. As Long As He Needs Me from Oliver!

One of the stand-out songs from Oliver!, “As Long As He Needs Me” is a passionate, emotional ballad sung by Nancy, about her unwavering love for her criminal boyfriend Bill Sikes – and her belief that with love, she can change his ways.

The range is perfect for alto singers, and you’ll be able to showcase the emotional depth and complexity of your voice. It’s another well-known song, so you may not be the only one singing it at your audition – so be prepared to either add your own twist to make the song your own, or sing it in the classic style and simply let your voice speak for itself.

7. The Winner Takes It All from Mamma Mia!

If you’re looking to sing a pop song, The Winner Takes It All is the perfect choice – especially if you’re auditioning for a character who experiences heartbreak.

Mamma Mia! is one of the most popular British musicals, with lots of fun, upbeat moments. But this song is one of the more emotionally charged songs, meaning that you’ll get to show off your acting skills as well as your vocal range.

8. All That Jazz from Chicago

Chicago’s songs are generally great choices for altos, and this upbeat number is no exception. All That Jazz is a sultry number performed by Velma Kelly, one of the show’s stars with heaps of confidence – so when you use this song for an audition, you’ll need to ensure you have the confidence and charisma that the character demands. 

As well as demonstrating your vocal range, the song’s theatrical nature will give you the chance to impress the panel with your acting skills and a little razzmatazz.

9. Nobody’s Side from Chess

Chess isn’t as well known as some of the other musicals in this list – but with music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA, lyrics by Ulvaeus and Tim Rice, and book by Rice, it really deserves to be.

Nobody’s Side is a powerful song, sung in the second act by the character Florence who’s caught between two great chess rivals. It’s a highly vulnerable piece that reveals the depths of Florence’s turmoil – giving you the opportunity to showcase your vocal skills and emotional depth.

10. Beauty and the Beast from Beauty and the Beast

Often called Tale as Old as Time, this song, sung by Mrs Potts in the musical, is perfect for showcasing the richness and depth of an alto voice. Gentle and expressive, it’s a good choice if you’re auditioning for a character who’ll need to sing a similarly slow yet upbeat song.

The song tells a story, meaning you’ll be able to show off your acting skills as the tale progresses – after all, auditions aren’t just about your vocal ability, but also your ability to convey emotions, and this song is sure to pack a punch.

Broaden your musical theatre horizons

Whatever song you choose, be sure to practice. If you want to learn more about musical theatre, you can’t go wrong with lessons from Sir Tim Rice. In his BBC Maestro course, Writing and Performing Musical Theatre, he explains exactly how to write, produce and perform in a hit musical.

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