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Top 5 audition tips to help you get that part!

 

So the audition dates have been published and you’re thinking of going for a principal role. Perhaps you always succeed and play every leading part, or perhaps you’ve never managed to win the role you think you were born to play? Whichever camp you’d place yourself in, here are our top tips for getting through the audition and winning that role.

  1. Be honest with yourself

Listen to the director’s description of the character and read the lib carefully. If the director’s looking for an eighteen year old soprano and you’re a fifty year old alto, it’s probably not the right role for you. Similarly, if the part is a tap-dancing leading man and you have two left feet and an in-growing toenail, don’t waste anyone’s time. Think about the character and try to imagine yourself in that role. However, don’t be too hard on yourself – just be realistic.

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2. Be prepared

If you really want a role, it’s a good idea to try to learn the audition pieces and practice the songs. You need to sell it to the audition panel and doing this while looking at your lib or forgetting the song is not ideal. Learning the lines shows the panel that you want the part enough to have put in some effort. You should also have a good sense of the character you’re auditioning for. Read the whole lib and look for clues about the person you’re portraying, and listen to the director’s description too.

3. Don’t focus on the wrong things

Using props, costume or wigs in an audition is almost always a mistake. When you’re nervous and on the spot, it’s so easy for props to get you mixed up or confused, and costumes and wigs aren’t what the audition panel are looking for. Put your effort into inhabiting the character without distractions. Focus on the acting and singing and the panel will fill in the missing bits.

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4. Nerves can be your best friend

Most people find auditions more nerve-wracking than an opening night. There’s something about being so obviously judged that reduces the most experienced performer to a quivering jelly. So, since you can’t avoid the nerves, use them instead. Plan for them in advance and think about how you can use them to express emotion and depth in the audition pieces. This approach can work for acting and singing, but you need to have thought about how your nerves will affect you and how and where you will use this. When you need power or emotion, your nerves can be the fuel that makes your performance electric.

5. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

If there are two parts that you can reasonably audition for, go for both – even if you really, really want only one of them. It never does any harm to show an audition panel what you can do. Auditioning for a second part shows more of your acting ability and more of your voice. It gives you longer to shine. And of course, if you don’t get the part you have your heart set on, you may get the other part. You’ll be disappointed for a time, but at least you have a part in the show.

Those are our top five tips, but if you fail despite these words of wisdom, there’s bound to be a place for you in the chorus. No show is a great show without a great chorus. Even when the principals are excellent, a poor chorus performance can ruin the atmosphere. So be a part of that well-oiled machine that is a great musical production – you’ll still have a wonderful time.

Hand to Mouth: the financial tightrope of musical theatre

In the far off olden days, before on-demand TV, boxed sets, Netflix and hundreds of freeview channels, families would often go to the theatre for entertainment. Of course, the cinema was also popular, but live theatre attracted huge audiences and thriving amateur theatrical societies were to be found in most small towns.

Today, many of those societies have disappeared or are struggling to survive. Audiences have shrunk, members (especially men) are harder to recruit, and production costs have gone through the roof.

Soaring costs

This last issue, the cost of putting on a show, is a critical one, as smaller audiences mean lower ticket sales and reduced income. The danger is that eventually ticket sales don’t cover the costs, and the society is forced to cut back on performances, which makes it even harder to find new members. It’s a spiral that many never recover from.

In Spring 2017, AOS staged the musical Annie for six performances, running Tuesday to Saturday evening, with an additional matinee performance on Saturday afternoon. The rights to stage the show for those six performances, plus the hire of the theatre, cost us £12,500. At an average audience ticket price of £14.50, this means that we needed to sell over 850 tickets just to cover those initial costs.

Hire of the musical scores cost over £1,000, while costumes, lighting, sound and scenery cost another £7,000. In total, and after being extremely careful with every penny spent, Annie cost just under £28,000 to stage. This means that we needed to sell over 1,900 tickets just to break even on the show. That’s a tall order for a small market town in rural England in the twenty-first century.

Selling out

If every performance was completely sold out, our seating capacity of over 2,500 for the week would mean we’d be in profit for the show, but that’s very hard to achieve these days. This means that any loss on a show has to be borne by the members, which means increasing the show fees we have to charge the cast, and that makes it harder to recruit the new members we need.

This is the tightrope we walk today – trying to manage costs, while filling the theatre, and attracting new members. And we do this for two major shows each year. It can be stressful, to say the least, and it’s only something we do as a hobby, so it’s a good thing that we love musical theatre enough to keep balancing along that tightrope for year after year, determined to keep musical theatre alive in Abingdon. Just don’t look down!

How we choose our shows – it’s not as easy as you might think

When new members join a musical theatre society, full of wide-eyed enthusiasm and ideas, they often ask the same question.

“Why are we doing Oklahoma! None of my friends have heard of it. Why don’t we do Wicked, or that new production of Frozen – we’d pack the audience in for those.”

At this point, the members of the society’s committee generally sigh and then gently explain the reality of amateur theatre to the innocent new member.

It’s restricted!

First, at any time, the range of shows available to amateurs is limited. If a professional production is being staged, or even being considered, the show will usually be restricted. For Abingdon, the problem is often greater, because we’re considered to be within the gravitational pull of London. This means that, if a professional producer is even heard whistling the overture of a particular show, it’s likely to be restricted. The same show may be available for an amateur production in Yorkshire, but in Abingdon it will be off the table.

Some shows are never released for amateur performance, even when they’re not being performed on the professional stage. These are the crown jewel shows, like Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables, that aren’t generally keen on amateur interpretations. The rights holders will usually laugh scornfully if a society is silly enough to even enquire about them. Oddly, there’s often a children’s version of these shows that will be available for school productions.

A happy chorus

Another important consideration when selecting a show is the range of roles involved and the opportunity for the chorus to be on stage. There may be a great ‘box office’ show available, but if the cast involves four people for most of the show, it would not be a popular choice for the thirty members in the chorus. For a society like AOS, the members’ show fee is a vital part of the show income, so the bigger the cast the better. A show with a cast of four people will cost almost as much to stage as a show with 50 people, and this makes it an unlikely choice.

Will it fly?

Finally, it can be difficult to stage some shows on a budget. For example, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang would be a lovely show to perform (if it was available for amateur performance), but the audience would rightly expect to see the car on stage. And at some point, they would also expect to see it fly. This can be magical on the West End stage, and even professional touring productions will have the necessary equipment, but for an amateur society it would add thousands to the show budget and so rule it out.

It’s not that there aren’t shows available. Amateur societies are constantly being contacted by rights holders offering amazing deals on shows that no one has ever heard about. Then it’s our turn to laugh scornfully. But in general, it’s the rule of supply and demand, with all the power in the hands of the rights holders.

Now, put on your cowboy hat and let’s get on with rehearsing Oklahoma!