When you’re acting the song for an audition, choose an appropriate genre for that show. If you’re auditioning for a traditional show like Guys and Dolls, choose a song from the Golden Age of Broadway. If on the other hand you are auditioning for a contemporary show like Freaky Friday, find a song with a fitting style for the time period.

Having classical and contemporary songs in your book that are performance ready will help you go into auditions feeling more prepared. “Performance ready” means you have done your prep work, understood the character, the intention behind the song, and have practiced it enough to truly perform it. This will all help you be in character and act the song better. If you learn a new song the night before, I guarantee, you will not be as connected to the character.

When you audition, you might only have 16-32 measures or 60-90 seconds to show ’em what you’ve got. This is why you must be prepared. I’ve had students tell me they have a difficult time connecting to a song when they have to do a cut rather than the entire song. Well, here’s the thing, that is exactly what you must be prepared to do to shine in the audition. You need to be able to “drop in” to the song and the character quickly at your audition, even if that means starting in the middle of the song. (Review part one of this story for tips.)

Pro Tips for Acting the Song in Auditions

1. Drop In
Learn the entire song so you have context for the whole story. Then if you’re asked to do just a cut, you can drop into character because of your thorough preparation. For example, when you get to your spot onstage or in the audition room you want to have a thought prepared that helps you quickly become the character. Practice quickly getting into the character’s mindset. The intro of the song (the starting notes the accompanist plays) can most certainly help you, but you should begin acting before the music starts.

2. Focal Point
Having a focal point will also give you more direction. If you’re in a small room auditioning, consider looking above your audition panel’s heads. Don’t look too high, you don’t want to appear as though you’re looking up at the ceiling. But rather, find a spot on the wall on which to focus. You don’t need to stare at that spot the entire time. You can place the person you’re singing to, your “other,” on that spot and find the moments when you want to look back.

Use your space and move around if it makes sense. You can always go back to that focal point. It will help you to have direction and not wander. Rehearse this at home with a focal point on your wall. Find the moments when you move away from it and when you return to that spot. One other nice thing about a focal point, you know where to look and you don’t feel awkward wondering if you should look at the audition panel or directors while you’re singing.

3. Trust the work
Connecting to your song when you’re not feeling it can be a real challenge. There may be times when you have to audition and you’ve been sick or you had a tough day for other reasons. Trust the work you’ve already done to carry you through the audition. Trust the character study and the time you’ve analyzing the song. When the time comes to sing, tap into the lyrics and the music, think about what you’re saying. We often need to slow down and remember the words, feel the meaning of the words, and not just sing them. This brings authenticity to what you’re singing.

Definitely do not rely on your own emotions. If you’ve had a tough day, it might be a challenge to emote happily, for example. But it’s your job to think about the character and who they are. It’s about what the character is going through, not what you’re experiencing. Practice being in character no matter your own emotions.

Be sure to focus on your “other” as you are acting the song for auditions. Remember, you’re singing TO someone, even if that someone is yourself. Focus on the message of the song. Be clear about your reasons for singing this song to that person.

Acting the Song at Callbacks

When you have a callback, apply all of these same tips. Plus, here are a few more things to think about for callbacks that are different than for the audition. (Let’s not forget our virtual auditioning skills! Click that link.)

Study the show before you audition.
You might have cold reads and cuts of songs you’ll be asked to prepare or do on the spot. Make choices for acting the song for the characters based on the lyrics and the circumstances. This is why it’s important to study the show ahead of time.

If you get to take sides home or are sent them ahead of time, use this to your advantage. Study and show up prepared! Spend time making not only acting choices but physical choices (based on the character). Don’t be afraid to stand out (in a positive way).

Acting the song skills can be learned and honed to help you onstage, in auditions, and at callbacks. Invest your time in practicing these tips and honing your skills. You’ll be glad you did! 

Laura Enstall, owner and founder of Audition Well. She helps students conquer audition fears, stand out in the audition room, and find the theatre program that’s a perfect fit. Follow Audition Well on Instagram for audition tips @auditionwell.

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