Material Choices and Common Sense

How many of us have heard the old chestnut, “Don’t sing a song from the show for your audition!” or “Don’t ever sing a composer’s song for the composer in an audition!”?

Let’s take a look at these urban-legend-schools-of-musical-theatre-thought for a moment, shall we?

1. “Don’t Sing A Song From The Show”

Hooboy, this makes no sense whatsoever. Since, reasonably, we don’t know the songs from a new show that has yet to open, we must be talking about revivals; stuff that has been done to death already.

A year or so ago, I saw a listing for “Fiddler On The Roof” on the Equity website where they specifically requested that artists not sing a song from the show for the audition. It was one of those theatre groups that traditionally hires two or four Equity artists for their community musical out in the boonies. I’ll keep the organization’s identity private so as not to embarrass them (*cough, cough* Performance Riverside…). But if it’s a revival…who cares if someone auditions with a song from the show?

Really, how does one cast a legendary role like Tevye by listening to a bunch of old duffers sing “Some Enchanted Evening”?

Thirty-two bars of “If I Were A Rich Man” aren’t good enough?

Should Golde bring in something from Madame Butterfly, perhaps?

Maybe Yente can do something from Rent…that would be really good.

And, beyond that, if, after you have sung your audition with material from another show and you’re asked to stay and read, do they also give you sides from another musical?

“Since we don’t want to hear songs from Fiddler – as we are casting Fiddler – please read this script from Hello Dolly as it has nothing to do with Fiddler either…”

Bottom Line: If you have the character’s song in your back pocket and you’re right for the part in age, range, looks and talent…just sing it. At callbacks, everybody will be singing the same songs anyway!

2. “Don’t Sing A Composer’s Song For The Composer”

Uh huh. And safe to assume here that Stephen Sondheim would rather hear an Andrew Lloyd Webber tune from Phantom instead of something from his own insanely deep catalog of Pulitzer Prize-winning material.

If you have the chops and the courage to show off those chops, then do something the composer wrote. Why play it safe like everyone else? It’s an act of risk and artistic respect and you’ll be remembered for doing it.

Regardless, if you get in their new show, you’re going to end up singing their material anyway…. Show ‘em you can do their stuff now.