Musical Audition Tips from Stephen Schwartz

Suggestions from a Broadway legend

stephen-schwartz-and-friends-concert-photo-maryann-lopintoStephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, Pippin) has been involved with Broadway and film casting decisions for over thirty years. Although he no longer witnesses the early stages of auditions, he always participates in final casting decisions for new musicals or prominent revivals.

He also sees dozens of shows every year on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in developmental readings. He’ll sometimes choose cast members for his own developmental readings based on performances he has seen, as was the case with Kristin Chenoweth whom he chose as “Glinda” for an early Wicked reading.

Here he answers questions from performers about auditions. (Used with Stephen Schwartz’s permission). [Photo – Stephen Schwartz in concert with Debbie Gravitte, Scott Coulter, and Liz Callaway)

I’m an aspiring music theatre actress and I have an audition for a performing arts university and I really want to be accepted. This sounds naive but I was wondering if you could give me some advise as to what you would look for if you were auditioning people? Are there any things I could do to make my audition stand out? Do you know anything that would be helpful? Thank you so much, Sera


In his answer, notice that he emphasizes being natural and appropriate.

The art of auditioning is, as you know, not something that can be fully discussed in a brief email. There are books written and classes taught about it. But briefly, I would say the following…what you most want to do is to present who you truly are and to show your skills to their best advantage. Here are some ways to do that: (more…)

Rock the Audition

Rock the Audition – How to Prepare for and Get Cast in Rock Musicals

This book published in 2011 focuses on auditioning for “rock” musicals, such as Rent, Godspell, Pippin, Jesus Christ Superstar, and so many others. The author, herself a performer, helps you figure out how to plan your audition.

She gives tips on practical things like parts to use or cut, find the best arrangement, and communicating with your pianist.

But beyond that she also advises on your performance as it communicates the feeling and message of the song or musical. Do you know how you will create a dramatic arc with the song or act it? Found out how in this 224 page book by Sheri Sanders.

Using Visualization and Sense Memory

Singing Tips from Michelle Cohen

You ultimately want to own a song. For it to be something that no one can imagine hearing any other way. So here are some deeper, more intimate techniques of attaching yourself to your song using visualization and sense memory.

This is more acting craftwork. Sometimes it will be unnecessary for certain types of songs where it is more about the music than the character or the story being told. Nonetheless, it is great to have these tools to use when the song calls for it.

The first thing to do is notice what images the words and the music evoke for you when you think about the song and also when you sing it. If you are singing Gershwin’s “Summertime” and you are visualizing a ski lodge, you might want to switch the imagery going on in your head. What does summertime evoke for you? Are you sitting on a cool shady porch, sipping ice cold lemonade, wiping little trails of sweat off your forehead, letting your body relax to the smell of barbecue, the sound of crickets and the sight of little kids running to the ice cream truck passing by?

Notice I am using descriptive words and all of the senses to conjure this image. The more you can taste that lemonade, or feel that lazy, contented body, the more you can give to the lyric. Actually imagine yourself singing from that place. Then just to prove this point, go to that ski lodge. Imagine the freezing crystals on your nose that haven’t melted yet as you desperately attempt to warm up by the blazing fire. Feel the prickly tingling in your body as it begins to thaw out. Now try to sing about summertime. A bit different, yes?

Whenever you sing a song without having done this homework, chances are you are putting incorrect or at least un-thought out images into your song. These sense memory exercises can be done in either of two ways. You can go back into your personal memories and find detailed aspects from your own experience. Or you can let your imagination go wild and cook up something very juicy and provocative. The whole point is to get your blood flowing and for these sensual images to move you. So whatever works, I say use it!

Keep in mind, you could have an automatic response to a song or to a lyric. If that is the case, your innate creativity has already done the job for you and you don’t have to push it. (more…)