My Comprehensive Guide To Musical Theatre Audition Books
During and (somewhat) after college, I learned of this mystical thing called an "Audition Book." According to liberal-arts-theatre-degree folklore, it was some sort of a binder filled with cuts of songs that one would sing at professional auditions. Your starting and ending places would be marked in the sheet music, the songs would be separated by category, and the papers would be placed in plastic sheet protectors. This gargantuan binder would come with you to every professional audition so you could whip out a prepared piece any time someone asked. Any random person. Even on the street. ("It could happen!" I heard...) It would be the most valuable thing you owned in New York City; woe to all those who leave it on the subway.
Audition books had a sort of mythic, epic quality to nineteen year old Mimi. Through various Tumblr and Reddit sources, friends who attended BFA programs, and the occasional Google search, I pieced together that an Audition Book would be something I needed to assemble eventually, but the task seemed incredibly daunting. I had binders full of sheet music... but did it all "work" for me in the professional world? What cuts were "right" to use? Is this song a good audition song or a good concert song? Are all of these songs I currently like overdone and unspecific on me? What should this binder even look like?!
It wasn't until I moved to New York City and began auditioning, taking classes, and working with other performers and theatrical organizations that I understood the intricate, personal process of assembling your Audition Book. I learned that three main things are required: curiosity, trial and error, and time.
If you plan on pursuing a career in musical theater, you simply have to know the genre; you need to explore its history and the slew of styles displayed throughout the decades. Being a curious student of your chosen industry is essential to understanding the layout of the genre, and finding material that helps showcase your strengths as a performer. There is no shortage of great, under-utilized audition material out there, but you have to be tenacious in listening to and learning about it.
Make a list of musicals you've never listened to, and want to! Research your favorite composers and see what other shows they've written, that maybe you've never heard of. Just have FUN listening to new things; you do love this stuff, after all! (Right?!)
If you need help, reach out to me for resources about all sorts of musicals and where you might want to start.
Trial and Error
Once you find great gems to add to your book, you need to put them to practice. Sometimes, a song you discover might seem perfect for you in theory, but getting it up on its feet in class or in an audition can reveal more about how well it will or won't work for you. Be patient as you work on things, and don't be afraid to seek outside opinions from coaches or teachers you trust. Make sure, though, that YOUR voice is the one reigning supreme as you choose the material that ultimately goes in your book. You have to love and look forward to sharing every piece you bring into an audition.
Book Audition Rep Coaching packages with me if you're interested in working with an experienced coach on material you've found and want to try out!
There is also a plethora of organizations and training programs designed specifically to help you craft your Audition Book. Comment below if you'd be interested in learning more!
Above all, recognize that this process takes time. As we'll explore below, Audition Books can contain a great deal and span a wide array of eras and styles. It takes a while for your curiosity to yield song options for you to consider further, and even longer to learn, work on, and fine tune the material you end up with. Even when you do feel solid with the Audition Book you have, the work never ends. As you age into and out of various types of roles, you'll need to replace material that isn't serving you as it might have at another time. You may also discover new songs that showcase you even better than your current pieces, and you'll need to evaluate what to keep and replace. Your Audition Book is an ever changing entity, so have fun letting it grow and change alongside you.