I have a few friends auditioning for The Book of Mormon in Melbourne at the moment, and was chatting to one of them after this afternoon's call. The casting brief clearly states "There are no roles in this production for Caucasian females" and today's auditionees were clearly told that, if they didn't suit the 'look' of the show (male or female), they wouldn't be in the room for long. As much as many performers think they can 'wow' the panel with their abilities, even if they don't fit the character/s they're looking for, the reality is it's pretty unlikely.
The conversation reminded me of a masterclass I attended a few years ago from multi-Tony-Award-winning composer/lyricist Jason Robert Brown where he laid down the following realities of auditioning for him / a Broadway show:
Look at him. This guy knows what he's talking about.
Realities of Auditioning for Jason Robert Brown / a Broadway Show
Reality 1: From the moment your foot passes that doorframe if you don’t LOOK like the character they want they won’t even listen to the first note you sing.
Reality 2: If you DO look like the character they want they'll listen to the first note you sing. Then, if you don’t SOUND like the character they want they won’t listen to another thing.
Reality 3: If you LOOK and SOUND like the character they want you will have their full attention for the remainder of the audition.
You may think that sounds harsh but it's simply the reality of our industry, and I for one am thankful that JRB chose to be honest and direct about it without perpetuating the fantasies many performers have.
He went on (I'm paraphrasing)…
Audition Song Choice
"Why would you sing a song by a character whose background, race, colour, or some other feature outside of your control differs from your own? As beautiful as it may be, no white man is ever going to sing “Let them Hear You” in a production of Ragtime – even practicing it is a waste of your time. Likewise, no white woman is ever going to be cast as Kim in Miss Saigon, so singing “I’d Give My Life For You” isn’t going to help you either."
That's actually Sylvie Paladino. Amazing what they can do with makeup these days. Photo: Joan Marcus
JRB also spoke about 'boxes'. All performers fit into a 'box' and working outside of that box is not going to get you cast. Why sing “I Cain’t Say No” when you’re a belter, have only ever been cast as a belter, and only ever will be cast as a belter? Similarly, if you’re a character actress, why sing “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” when you’re only ever going to be cast as Mae in Lippa’s The Wild Party or Columbia in Rocky Horror? Find your box and work to your strengths.
Look at the greats – Patti LuPone is Patti LuPone in everything she does; Bernadette Peters is the same and, closer to home, so is Anthony Warlow. They found their box and they worked it. You’ll never see Warlow playing Mark Cohen in RENT and the idea itself is laughable. It would truly be a square peg in a round hole.
Not sure how to find your box? Look at other performers whose roles you know you're capable of/suited for. Most of Idina/Sutton's songs have a similar sound/style so that may be another good starting point when thinking about songs/roles that may suit you.
Anthony just heard about Jersey Shore: The Musical. Photo: Quentin Jones
Finally, JRB said the same thing you always hear when the pros talk about auditioning but, for some reason, it regularly seems to be ignored: KNOW THE CHARACTER YOU ARE AUDITIONING FOR. It sounds simple but if more people truly understood the role and their own abilities I can guarantee that fewer and fewer characters would fit into their box. And that’s not such a bad thing. Consider these two outcomes:
1. You do one audition for a role that fits within your box and you were close to perfect for but missed out to the only other auditionee truly suited to the role, or
2. You do thirty auditions for no roles that actually suit you and beat yourself up after every single one because you hadn't thought about your suitability for the role and couldn’t actually appreciate that you weren’t cast because it’s a role you never should have considered auditioning for in the first place.
I know which one I’d prefer. :)