You can connect more deeply with any musical theatre song you’re singing by using these three tips on “Acting the Song” technique. What is it? Maybe you’ve heard of it but thought it’s something only professional actors use or something you learn once you’re in college. Not true! And no need to wait until college to learn it.

Acting the song is important because it’s simply not enough to sing a song well. You need to be able to embody the emotions behind the lyrics for anyone to stop thinking you’re just acting; that you actually are the character. Honing this technique is especially helpful for auditions when you only have 16 to 32 bars to “sell” the song.

Acting the Song Technique 

There are a few ways you can connect to a song. You can use the “magic if.” That is, imagine you are the character and then act “as if” you are. This approach is great if you’re in a show and have time to really study the character and know their mannerisms and attitudes.

Or use a situation from your life and relate it to the song. These are two common ways for an actor to relate more to a musical theatre song. And when you understand your character and truly act as if you are them, it’s so much easier for the audience to connect and care.

3 Tips for Acting the Song Successfully

It’s important to do some character analysis work. Sure, you could just start singing but remember that to be the best you have to do more than simply sing well. To improve your performance, know the answers to these questions about your character:
• Who are you?
• What’s your name?
• What’s your occupation?
• Who is your family?
• What do you like and dislike?
• Who are you singing to?

Also, knowing these answers for your character helps you direct your focus while you’re singing. You’ll most likely be singing to someone else, yourself, a higher being/God, or a group of people. Pick your focus based on what you know from the show. For example, let’s look at the lead character in Anastasia: The Musical. In the song “Journey to the Past” who is her “partner”/who is she singing to? Herself!

Acting Starts the Moment Before You Sing

What happens right before you open your mouth to sing is when your song starts. Your acting begins before the first note; the story begins before the song does. Again, in “Journey to the Past,” Anastasia is getting the courage to make a huge decision in her life, to move forward and take a leap of faith. She doesn’t do that when she first starts singing, “Heart don’t fail me now, courage don’t desert me.” She’s having an internal talk with herself during the introduction of the song (the instrumental) before she sings. Practice having that conversation with yourself so that you can convey the intense feelings that Anastasia has when she breaks out in song.

Know What You Want

Take the time to ask yourself more questions so you can create an entire character to step into while you’re singing:
• What does the character want?
• What’s the objective or the goal of the song? There’s always a goal. So, what do you want and what are you willing to do to get it?

Going back to Anastasia, perhaps you think she’s trying to define who she really is in the world. Or maybe she’s wanting to find her family. Know your objective.

The easiest way to determine your objective is to read, and re-read, the lyrics. Do the reading with and without music to give yourself multiple opportunities to for a deeper understanding.

Acting the song technique will help you become an actor who transforms from your own personality and mannerisms into embodying the character! And this ability will help you succeed. I encourage you to take a closer look at a song you’re working on and try a few of these tips. Trust me, it will make a huge difference in your performance. Break a leg! 

Laura Enstall, owner and founder of Audition Well, is an audition coach and regular contributor to 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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