How to Nail a Musical Theatre Audition

Tricia Grey, MM

Every large city has local theater companies as well as professional theaters that cast for their shows.  Many cities have auditions called Unified Auditions.  These are annual professional auditions that allow Equity, qualifying non-Equity, and Emerging Artists 18 years and older to audition before fifty or more local and regional theater companies.  This is a great way to be seen and considered for many projects at the same time.6154935_S

You will need 16-32 bars of a musical theatre song, a prepared monologue, and a professional headshot and resume.  Many auditions will contain a dance component as well.  Be sure to read the audition requirements and know what is expected of you; auditions differ from show to show and from company to company.  If you are auditioning for a specific musical (as compared to the Unifieds where you are seen by many people casting different shows), be sure you have researched the show you are auditioning for and are very familiar with the character you would like to play, the scene the song occurs in, and the entire show.  Understanding the time period, physical setting, and intentions of the composer will help you embody the role.  Do your research!  Physical typecasting plays a big role in whether or not you are cast.  For example, ingenue roles require slim physiques- unless you are auditioning for Tracy in Hairspray.  Pick songs that are age and style appropriate.

Normally you would not sing something from the show you are auditioning for, but you should select a song that is similar in style.  Be sure you know how many bars of music are required for the audition.  Often you will have a total of two minutes to get through both the monologue and the song.  If that is the case the song should be “cut” to showcase your best vocal chops.  Choose the best 16 to 32 bars of the song.  The cuts need to look clean, readable, and professional.  Being aware of time limitations is vital- you will be cut off if your  song selection exceeds the time limitations.  Even if you are allowed to sing an entire song, you will more than likely be cut off if you choose a song that is lengthy-keep it short and pick a piece that shows range, power, dynamics, control, style, and emotion in the shortest time possible.

It really pays to work with a vocal coach or voice teacher who can help you choose the best 16-32 bars of music that best represents you, and who can help you do professional looking cuts of the music.  Do not walk into an audition with several sheets of loose sheet music that will droop and fall off the piano, or sheet music that is stapled together.  Your accompanist will not be able to turn the pages and you will not be seen as being professional.  The accompanist can make or break your audition!

Put the music in non-glare sleeves front-to-back, just like sheet music.  Put this in a one inch size 3-ring black binder and include your headshot and bio with your contact information inside.  The headshot and bio will be left with the auditors.  A portfolio and professionally done head shot that can be left with the company is imperative; when directors can see your face again and again they may start to envision you in a certain role.  Don’t bring a huge neon-colored binder with every song you ever learned in it- just include the songs you will be using for the audition and maybe one or two more in case they ask for something else.

In today’s digital marketing world an electronic press kit is also essential.  You should have a website with photos and live footage of your performances.  Have this set up by a professional designer unless you know how to do professional quality work yourself.  Make sure your website and electronic press kit information are listed on your bio, along with your other contact information such as email and phone numbers.

Even the best actors find auditions to be stressful and nerve-wracking.  Of course, practice  makes perfect.  You are not ready until the song and choreography are second nature.  This takes time and hard work to accomplish.  Auditions are stressful but you will perform better if you are not struggling to remember lines, words to songs, or choreography.  Take advantage of today’s technology; video record yourself rehearsing and analyze what you see.  Take it to a performance coach and a vocal coach and get professional feedback.  Analyze the character you will be portraying.  When you have internalized their characteristics, emotions, and physical movements you will become believable in the role.  Decide ahead of time what emotions, movements, and expressions the character might use and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!

Arrive at the audition warmed up and ready to perform.  Spend at least 20-30 minutes before you leave your house warming up your voice with vocal exercises and sing through the song once or twice.  Professionalism means being early to auditions and rehearsals- don’t show up at the last minute looking harried and stressed out.  Leave extra time for inevitable traffic issues and so forth.  You should not go to an audition in a costume; however a neat and well put-together professional-looking outfit that subtly suggests your character will enhance the auditors’ perception of you.  Wear solid colors, not prints, and avoid fashion statements and extreme hairstyles and clothing.  Wear clothing that is flattering but allows you to move, and choreograph appropriate movement into the song presentation.  The auditors will want to see how well you move onstage.  You should not do a dance routine while you are singing however; if the show you are auditioning for requires you to do dance numbers you will do a separate dance audition.

Bring appropriate professional dance wear and shoes for the dance portion of the audition.  Do not wear sweats, jeans, or flip-flops.

You will also need to prepare a monologue.  The earlier you start preparing your vocal and monologue material the more professional you will appear.  Don’t even think about choosing a song or monologue any less than six weeks before your audition.  And then rehearse them until you are sick of them, and rehearse some more!   Work with a professional acting coach to prepare for the monologue portion of the audition.  Select material based on your voice teacher and acting teacher’s recommendations, not on your favorite song or monologue.  You need professional guidance here.

Always be gracious and polite to everyone you meet at an audition.  Word gets around and no one wants to work with a diva.  Be particularly polite to your accompanist.  Don’t snap your fingers at them for tempo; sing the first couple of bars of the song to them, softly.  If there is a musical train wreck while you are singing (which usually happens because the music is not clearly marked) just keep singing and finish.  Don’t stop and glare at the accompanist.  Thank them for playing for you.  Be gracious.

Your demeanor should be professional and competent.  Smile at the auditors and appear friendly, but don’t be pushy or joke around.  Don’t invade their personal space or stare at them while you are singing; use your fourth wall.  Don’t be upset if they talk and rattle papers while you are performing- they just might be discussing you!  When each segment of the audition ends, smile and say thank you graciously and mean it.

You want to be perceived as confident, competent, likable, and a team player.  Don’t be arrogant, even if you think you are perfect for the gig.  Let your work speak for itself.

Finally, it is important to not rush through the audition, and to make eye contact with everyone before and after you perform, in a pleasant way.  Though eye contact may not always be possible if an auditor is looking down and writing, making an attempt is important.  The audition is also an interview and an opportunity to interact as a human being with other human beings in the room.  Thinking of your audition as just an opportunity to interact with some other human beings can reduce the fear factor tremendously.  Remember, the truth is, they want you to succeed.  They want you to be just want they are looking for, and if you are, you are making their life easier.  Letting them see who you are as a person is just as important as what you are presenting in the song.

Don’t rush the moment after the song.  In other words, don’t say “thank you” too quickly.  Take a moment, take a breath, smile, and then say thank you.  Without dawdling too much, just wait a further moment to see if they have anything to say to you.  If not, make a graceful and smiling exit.
Three things to remember are:
1. It’s better to be over prepared than under-prepared.  Preparation shows up as confidence.  Being under-rehearsed results in insecurity.
2. Being likable, humble and teachable with get you hired (and re-hired) more often than being arrogant, ego-driven, and pushy.  A theater production of any kind is a team effort and being a team player is essential.  You should be confident, but humble.
3. Most of the time, if you are not hired, it’s not because you weren’t good or they didn’t like you.  They have a certain spot to fill, requiring a particular “type” or personality, and they just might not have seen you as the right type for that role.  Being “typed out” has nothing to do with your talent or worthiness!

Musical Theatre agents can make the process of finding work much easier.  Often they can send you out on calls that are not available to the general auditioning population.  Auditioning for an agent involves the same process outlined above- it’s an audition, requiring the same level of preparation and professionalism.   Research the agent or talent agency’s track record- who they represent and their level of success- before committing to an agent.  Find out how involved and active they will be in representing you.  Talk to their clients to find out how satisfied they are with their representation.  Of course, many  agents will not be willing to take you on unless you have some proven success on your own.  If you want management, you have to give them something to manage!

Besides local websites (in Atlanta check out, auditions are listed in Playbill (, Backstage ( and Stage Door Access ( publications which you can subscribe to or visit online.  Backstage has a kid’s department:  Backstage lists all the auditions going on in LA, New York, and everywhere else. The Hollywood Reporter is another source for audition listings.  Visit the SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild) website, and contact Actor’s Equity at
This article is from the book YOU Can Sing Like a Star! by Tricia Grey, MM.   BOOK COVER- USE! copy

To purchase the book or to book lessons by skype or in-person please visit the website at