Q&A: How to Prepare for a Cirque Audition

Email question received:

Hi Conrad,

I stumbled across your website when researching Cirque composers. I  am a student at Musicians Institute LA, and i have been invited to audition with cirque here in LA next tuesday. I am a keyboardist and guitarist (acc/elect) and was wondering whether you had any tips regarding how to make the best impression at the audition. I have picked 2 pieces on keys and one of guitar, as well as a piece of my choice.

I love the cirques music, feeling and message and i dearly hope to give the best performance that i can possibly give at the audition.

thanks
(name edited)

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Q&A: Seussical Mayzie La Bird Tryout Tips

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Photos of characters playing Mayzie La Bird from Seussical the Musical. Click for full size.

Received this question about the character Mayzie La Bird from Seussical:

I’m trying out for MAYZIE LA BIRD and i was wondering what song i should sing? and what vocal range does she need?

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In Seussical the Musical, Mayzie La Bird is the antagonist and well experienced city girl. She’s the “Bette Midler” of Seussical. She’s brassy and street smart. Her counterpart is Gertrude, the innocent ingenue and protagonist.

For an audition song for the part of Mayzie, I would suggest something brassy and/or big traditional broadway. A song that says “Here I am!”. Look for any songs Bette Midler or Liza Minelli would have done. “Cabaret” would be a great song.

We had a great Mayzie for our production, Ashely Henning. She sings great traditional Broadway. After doing Mayzie she had leads in “Little Women” and “Evita”, to give you an idea of the character. Mayzie could be played by a wide range of ages – but she does have a baby, so take that into account. Younger actresses might go for Gertrude, or if you have a powerful bluesy voice you could tryout for the Purple Kangaroo (a very fun role).

Mayzie’s songs in Seussical the Musical are what I would call “Torch Songs”, and usually played by a mature voice (18 years and older).

Hope you have fun. Seussical was a very fun musical to perform. Musicians that have worked with me count it as one of their favorites. In fact I recently received an email from a cello player who says it’s bar they use to judge the fun of all other musical productions.

Auditioning for a musical is one of the hardest processes to endure. The more you do, the better you’ll get at it. The first couple auditions might be (read “probably will be”) bad experiences and embarrassing, just keep doing it if you want parts.

Mazy Suessical Muiscal Mazee Mayzee Soosical Seusical

Best Song for Child Auditions – Top Ten Kid Audition Tips

What’s the best song to sing for kids auditions? Let me tell you my pick, and why – along with top ten mistakes I’ve seen kids make at auditions. Parents please read this whole post, important information for you that you may not have thought of. It’s really not difficult stuff, just a matter of preparation. “Winging It” is a sure way to NOT get cast.

BEST SONG FOR KID AUDITIONS

My pick is “Consider Yourself” from Oliver. And here are my reasons:

  • Most everyone likes the song
  • It’s a song kids can sing and really sell utilizing their cuteness and smiles
  • It shows a child can keep pitch (assuming it’s sung correctly) through changing key centers.
  • It’s easy to learn, but not stupidly easy like singing “Happy Birthday”
  • If it’s performed on pitch with energy, smiles and big hand gestures – I can pretty much say you WILL get cast if there’s a part for you. Music directors are going to be listening for good pitch transition on the bridge section, make sure you have it right. If you don’t know what that means, have your kid meet with a music instructor (and give them a Starbuck’s gift card, we like that!). They’ll hook you up.
  • The range of the song is a little over an octave, not too demanding on young vocal ranges.

LYRICS TO CONSIDER YOURSELF from OLIVER

Recommend starting pitch: D (ask pianist to play a “G” chord). Or C (ask pianist to play an “F” chord). I think the original is in Bb, starting note F (a little high for many young voices).

NOTE: For auditions sing with your normal accent, don’t use a British cockney accent.

Consider yourself at home.
Consider yourself one of the family.
We’ve taken to you so strong.
It’s clear we’re going to get along.
Consider yourself well in
Consider yourself part of the furniture.
There isn’t a lot to spare.
Who cares?..What ever we’ve got we share!

If it should chance to be
We should see
Some harder days
Empty larder days
Why grouse?
Always a-chance we’ll meet
Somebody
To foot the bill
Then the drinks are on the house!
Consider yourself our mate.
We don’t want to have no fuss,
For after some consideration, we can state…
Consider yourself
One of us!

TOP TEN MISTAKES CHILDREN MAKE AT AUDITIONS

  1. Not having a song prepared. Then the director will say “Just sing Happy Birthday” – and all the directors will put on forced smiles to encourage the child, but inside our stomach is being tied in knots having to hear this.
  2. Singing a song beyond your years. No one wants to hear a fourth grader sing “Ti*s and A**” – it just makes everyone uncomfortable. And yes, I have seen children use that song at auditions. We don’t want something sultry or provocative from a kid’s audition – we just want to hear vocal quality and pitch retention.
  3. “Can I start over?” – Yikes, don’t do that. Just barrel your way through it. If you can’t do it, just stop and do a different song. It’s NEVER better when people start over, it just adds to the agony of the listeners – it shows a lack of preparation and commitment to the project you are auditioning for.
  4. Don’t sing the National Anthem, Happy Birthday or Row Row Row Your Boat. No one sings the National Anthem all the way through well, and Happy Birthday/Row Row Row Your Boat don’t show us anything about vocal quality or pitch recognition. If you sing those songs and you DO get cast, it means there was very low competition on that production for your age group – or singing wasn’t super important for all parts on this production.
  5. Finish Your Audition – If for some reason a child breaks down into tears during the audition process (which is not at all uncommon) and they want to stop, have them ask the directors if they can take a break and do it later. Most directors (in community theater environments) will be happy to do this. Give your kid a pep talk, tell them to own the stage and have them do it again in a half hour or when is available. I’ve seen kids do this, come back and own the stage – then go on to become very involved in theater. If you let your child leave, then they will forever have an indelible fear of theater and always feel like they don’t make the cut. It’s not true, make them go back. I wouldn’t be surprised if they get cast.
  6. Keep it fun, keep it light. With rare exceptions, there is no place in children’s auditions for monologues about serious and dark topics like suicide, drug addiction, etc. I actually saw a talented actor not get cast in a show because they did a dark monologue on suicide, while auditioning for a Disney show. It made everyone uncomfortable, and had nothing to do with the show. Save the dark stuff for Shakespear auditions – and only use it when the upcoming production calls for it.
  7. THREE THINGS YOU NEED: Monologue, song, be prepared to dance. The monologue and song you are on your own, be prepared to sing it a capella (without music) in case there’s no piano player. Don’t bother with a CD soundtrack, just sing it. Have a monologue under one minute that lets you show a range of emotion. If you don’t have it memorized, read off a piece of paper – the acting is what’s important. Usually they will have a choreographer show you dance steps so you don’t have to have a dance prepared. So work on your Monologue and Song.
  8. Be Excited. Directors want to see your enthusiasm and confidence for the show. Smile, let your eyes sparkle and give it your all. The Directors are bored from watching so many auditions – make them laugh, entertain them – you’ll have a better chance of getting a part. Always say Thank You when you are finished.
  9. Take the Understudy Role – If you are offered an understudy role, take it. You will probably learn MORE than if you had been cast at the lead. At some point you’ll probably have the chance to take the role over or perform it. When that time comes you have to be prepared RIGHT THEN – so keep on top of the role and blocking. You might only get one chance to show your command of the role.
  10. Your Are Always Auditioning – While you are waiting for your audition, you are actually already auditioning. And when you’re waiting after your audition at the location, you’re still auditioning. Theater folks are a tight knit community and the audition process is a way to field out red flags and trouble spots. And PARENTS, this goes for you too: If you are a “stage parent” and causing friction at the audition location you may cost your kid a role. It happens more than you think. Be easy going and a team player. I know children that have lost out on PAID positions just because their parents are impossible to deal with. As you can probably guess, the parent’s don’t have a clue….

Estimate Preparation Time for Monologue and Song: 3 hours

NOW GO GET THOSE ROLES!

If any of this helped you out and you got cast, please leave a comment let me know!

Audition Tips for Kids

Audition Tips for Kids – Interview with Meridee Stein.

Also Read Conrad’s Top Ten Audition Tips for KidsÂ

About Meridee Stein. For nearly two decades, Ms. Stein has produced and directed family entertainment including new works by Charles Strouse, Richard Peaslee, Elizabeth Swados and Stephen Schwartz. Her productions have been performed nationally at such venues as the NYSF/Public Theater, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, The Annenberg Center and The O’Neill Theater Center, and internationally in China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka and the Middle East. Ms. Stein is a member of SSDC, the Dramatists Guild, League of Professional Theatre Women and is a 2004 graduate of the Commercial Theatre Institute.

About Auditions for Children

Carol de Giere: As a director, what would you advise kids who are auditioning, or what are some of the biggest mistakes?

Meridee Stein: One of the biggest mistakes I see a lot is singing out of your range. You need to present yourself in the best possible light. If you have a more limited range, find a song that highlights that range.

Also I would say, 12 year olds should not be singing sultry, very mature adult songs and lyrics, which sometimes they do. It’s very off-putting in a way, because it really doesn’t come from them.

CD: So would they pick songs from musicals where there was a child part?

MS: They could. For example, we had some little boys come in and sing from Oliver, “Where is Love” that shows off their beautiful boy’s soprano. We had a girl come in and sing “Popular” from Wicked. That was fine. She was great. She even had the little Kristin Chenoweth sound. Anything that they can really understand themselves and stays within their vocal range would be fine. Otherwise it’s a little off-putting and they don’t sound as good as they could.

CD: Do children come in with an up tempo and a ballad like adults would?

MS: Yes. In our case [for Captain Louie for the York Theatre production in the spring of 2005] we told them to bring a legitimate theatre tune and a pop tune. So some were ballads and some weren’t but they were two different modes. They get 16 bars but they should prepare the whole song because we will sometimes let kids sing all the way through.

CD: What else do you expect of them going into a show?

MS: …We expect them to be prepared, and when they are out there, that they behave like professionals. They are going to have to balance their school work and their performance schedule.

CD: Do you expect them to act a song when they are auditioning?

MS: I do. The more an actor or actress (kid or not) can get across a character in their song, the more I am interested. Songs in musicals aren’t sung without the context of the show they’re in. I’m looking for people who will do a good job in my show, not for cabaret performers. When I audition, during call backs I run scenes with them. I let them read the scene first and I give them directions to see who can follow. And sometimes I give line readings to see if they can get what it is that we want. The ability to take direction, to change what they are doing based on suggestion, is more important to me in the audition than whether they actually nail the specific character or part.

It’s hard to find kids who can act and sing and dance at the same time. We kind of put the dancing on hold, but you can tell whether kids are stiff or can move. And our choreography tends more to be movement than actual dance. In the end, I’ll take more of a chance on a kid who can sing and needs work on the acting side because you can help people with line readings but you can’t give them a good voice. It’s a matter of balance. And the nature of the particular role, as well.

CD: When they perform at an audition, do they look at the director?

MS: When they are up there, they have a reader and they are working with the reader….[So they are looking at the reader]…

CD: For your professional off-Broadway production, what’s the relation of the number who audition to who gets the part?

MS: I would say there were at least 200 people that auditioned and I think we picked six or seven. That’s a pretty tight ratio. It’s a tough business, and these are young starting out with great talent. Not a whole lot of experience, so I’m going to have to work a lot to get the performances. Some of them have great voices but it’s not just about learning the music, it’s about performing the song in context– about making the musical moment work within the show.

CD: So what does that mean to you – the difference between singing and performing.

MS: All songs are performed when they are on stage. Signing is learning the notes and what you have to sing. But for performing it, there are the lyrics, it’s what it says. It’s the context in which you are performing this number in the show itself. And what it’s supposed to be doing and what you want the audience to feel and what part of the story are you telling when you sing this song, and how does it move us forward from point A to point B, what does it serve, and why is it here? It’s the actor’s job to tell that story of the show through the song. So it’s just as big an acting job as it is when you’re talking to somebody in a scene.