Musical Theater Audition Advice Straight from the Director
Do you dream of a special role in your school’s or community’s next play or musical theater production? Are you in a choir or musical ensemble and want to try out for a key solo? Chances are, you are going to have to so something most people dread: survive an audition. Ugh. Auditions can be daunting, nerve-wracking, and downright scary. We’ve asked Jayne Howard, accomplished musical theater director at Maranatha Christian Schools, to share her best tips for nailing your next audition. Trust us, Jayne’s productions are top-notch, professional, and landing a lead or supporting role in one of her shows is tough. She knows what she’s doing and she’s here to help.
Jayne, can you tell us a little about your musical theater background?
I was born in London England to thespian parents so theatre was a major part of my upbringing. I came to the United States when I was 8 years old and studied ballet and theatre for most of my childhood. I performed in many musicals and plays growing up in LA, and after High School, I landed the role of Laurey in the musical “Oklahoma!” for a summer stock theatre. Over 300 performances later, I opened a dance studio in Tulsa, Oklahoma and taught dance for 20 years. Upon moving to San Diego with my family, I directed productions for CYT and started a Performing Arts ministry at The Church at Rancho Bernardo. Thirteen years later, God called me to MCS as the Performing Arts Director for K – 12 grades. I have directed over 34 youth musical productions and 16 Summer Theatre Arts Camps.
What are some things you look for when casting lead and supporting roles?
Casting a show is one of my favorite parts of directing a production. I look for several things when a student comes into an audition: confidence, posture, eye contact and a smile. In casting a lead role, the student must show me they can sing on pitch, with clarity and projection. If it is a character role, the student should pick a song for the audition that reflects the character’s personality.
How important are private voice lessons for teens who’d love to get involved in musical theater?
Private lessons are extremely important for students to become confident performers and to improve their voices. Your voice is an instrument that needs to be used. Students who want to land roles in productions need to study even when not in a show.
Can you share a few tips for delivering the most successful audition possible?
Be Prepared! Pick the right song––that is so important. Don’t pick a song just because you like it. Make sure to pick a song that shows off your vocal range and is in the style of the production. In other words, if you’re auditioning for Annie and want the lead role, sing a belt song. Try not to sing a song from the show you are auditioning for and prepare 16 bars––not much more. Rehearse your song a lot before the audition! Bring sheet music in the correct key and thank your accompanist and audition committee when you are finished. Never apologize for your audition! Always stay positive and smile! Remember:
- Don’t take rejection personally.
- Don’t have your heart set on a certain role. The director may see you in another role.
- You may have a role in one show and be cast as ensemble in other shows.
- Productions don’t consist of just lead roles. Everyone is important to the entire show.
Auditioning for anything can be so nerve wracking and even scary! Do you have any advice for battling those pesky nerves and “the shakes”?
Nerves are more of an issue for some than others. I recommend you audition for as many shows as possible. The more you audition the easier it gets. Here are some pointers for battling nerves:
- Always go to an audition prepared.
- Take a long, deep breath.
- Know that your talents are a gift.
Thank you, Jayne, for sharing your valuable advice. We encourage everyone who would like to participate in plays and productions to go for it! You’ll gain experience and confidence with every show you do.
Elizabeth Van Tassel
Thank you for these great thoughts Jayne and Laura! I agree about the song lyrics and poise, both are so important. You always do terrific productions and we think your expertise is fantastic.