Is your audition book full of songs that have you never gravitated towards when auditioning? Maybe you’ve fallen out of love with your repertoire or maybe the songs in your book just don’t speak to you anymore. Whatever the case, it’s always a good idea to periodically refresh your repertoire so that you can feel confident when walking into your next audition.
Keeping an organized audition book filled with songs that show off all your best assets is crucial. Before looking for new repertoire to fill your book, take a look at the songs currently in your book and ask the following questions:
1. What purpose does this song serve?
Whether it’s an up-tempo patter song from Pirates of Penzance or a brooding ballad from Jekyll & Hyde, each song in your audition book needs to serve a purpose. Knowing what skills each of the songs in your audition book is highlighting is important. You want to make sure that you have enough material in your book so that your entire range of talents are covered.
2. How versatile is this song?
Songs can creep into our audition book from very niche auditions and remain at the back of the book, collecting dust. While it’s important to have those songs in your back pocket, keeping an audition book of about 10-15 songs that can work for a variety of auditions is more practical. There is little point to lugging a massive binder that is filled with songs that you hardly use and might not have prepared as well.
3. How well do you know this song?
Speaking of being unprepared……there’s always a small sense of panic that flickers through your brain when an audition panel says, “What else do you have to sing?”. As you flip through your audition book, the last thing that you want is to have any songs in your book that are not “performance ready”. It is important your songs are prepared with both musical and acting choices so that you can focus on giving a good performance, instead of just trying to remember the words.
4. Is this the best cut of this song?
How you decide to cut your song for an audition can be as crucial as choosing the song itself. Take a hard look at your songs and see if you’ve chosen a cut that shows off the best bits of your voice while still making sense narratively. As heartbreaking as it can be, (let’s face it) there are some songs that just don’t work well as audition cuts.
5. Does this song still excite you?
For me, this is one of the most important questions to ask yourself. If the performer isn’t excited about the material they are singing, why would the audition panel be excited to hear it? Choosing material for your audition book that you enjoy performing will not only mean that you are more comfortable with your repertoire, but it also sets you up for a more enjoyable audition experience.
Now that you’ve settled on the songs you’re keeping, it’s time to fill the holes in your book. When looking for new repertoire, the amount of material to choose from can feel overwhelming. That being said, revamping your audition book is a great excuse to listen to new musicals and discover hidden gems. Once you know how to spot audition songs that will let you shine, the fun can begin!
6. Explore different eras and genres.
Jukebox musicals are crowd-favorites and performing non-musical theatre songs at auditions is becoming increasingly popular. Many musicals today have been written by pop music artists (such as Cindi Lauper for Kinky Boots and Sara Barellies for Waitress) and there are even more jukebox musicals like Rock of Ages and Mamma Mia! that are constantly being performed. Having a wide range of popular music in your rep book is essential to be prepared for a variety of auditions. When exploring popular music, there are many places to find inspiration.
Take a look at the top pop and rock hits of each decade. This is a great place to start when looking for new artists and genres to be inspired by. You can also explore other hits by the artists that wrote your favorite jukebox musical to find some of their lesser known gems. Another great place to find pop/rock repertoire is through jukebox musicals that you don’t know as well. Looking at jukebox musicals that contain music from the similar eras can be a great way to find new tunes. Shows like The Marvellous Wonderettes, BEEHIVE: The 1960s Musical, and Streakin’ thru the 70s are an excellent resource to find hit songs from the 50s/60s/70s.
7. Branch out from the classics!
I mean, they are classics for a reason, but just because you love singing I Dreamed a Dream in the shower, doesn’t mean it’ll be the best song to show off your skills in an audition setting. Looking into lesser known works by the same composers of the shows you love is a great place to start when diversifying your repertoire.
If you love Phantom of the Opera, why not check out some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s lesser known works? Tell Me on a Sunday, Aspects of Love, and Whistle Down the Wind all contain that signature ALW flair. Or maybe Les Misérables is your go-to show. If so, try Martin Guerre or The Pirate Queen for more Boublil &Schönberg.
8. Give the Golden Age era some love.
We all know the wonderful melodies of Rodgers and Hammerstein, but there are so many great composers to explore from before, during, and after they hit the scene. If Golden Age musical theatre is where you feel the most at home, try composers like Jerome Kern, Frank Loesser, and Jerry Herman to expand your Golden Age knowledge.
9. Don’t be afraid to gender-bend.
When performing an audition, the panel is looking for a performance that will demonstrate both your vocals and storytelling abilities. If you find a song that is traditionally sung by a member of another gender, there’s no reason to pass it by! After transposing the key of the song to suit your range, there’s no reason to limit yourself if you connect with the story of the song.
Your audition book should be a reflection of your best work. Taking the time to refresh your repertoire is a great way to ensure you’ll be putting your best foot forward at your next audition. The added bonus? Finding a whole new batch of music to fall in love with along the way!