Getting Attention In Your Audition (Or… MOVE THE CHAIR, for crying out loud!)

When it comes to the art of auditioning, there’s a ton we could focus on and discuss. However, you probably know most of the tricks by now (how to fix your music, talk to the accompanist, dress, etc.). So what new insider info could there possibly be to trade?

Glad you asked! How about we dissect a few options perhaps you haven’t dwelt on and sweated over yet? Sound like a plan? Good! Ok…. Here we go!


The musical notation tells you where you are going to hold out notes, cut a word short, and things like that. But do you know what word to emphasize?

Think of it this way: In each sentence, which word is the most important to that particular sentence – not the phrase, the arc of the song, or the overall piece in general, but that singular sentence.

For example, let’s look at “Over The Rainbow.” The first sentence is: “Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.”

When you sing it, perhaps you’ve thought that the words that are held out are the most important – “some – where,” “way,” “there’s a,” and “lullaby.” Fine, let them be important when it comes to the notes. Let the music do its job. But when it comes to getting your point across, which words are important?

Did you say “over” and “land”?

Sing it again now emphasizing those words, and see if you hear the message already beginning. “Somewhere OVER the rainbow, way up high, there’s a LAND that I heard of once in a lullaby.”

Let’s try another one! How about “Corner of the Sky” from Pippin? The first sentence is as follows: “Everything has its season, everything has its time, show me a reason, and I’ll soon show you a rhyme.”

If you correlate words with the notation, the emphasis is on “season” and “time,” “reason” and “rhyme.” And yes, they are important, so keep them that way. However, if you think of what Pippin is starting to tell you, he’s comparing himself – and his search – to what? To “everything.”

So sing it again. “EVERYTHING has its season, EVERYTHING has its time.”

Directional words are a wonderful way to really begin to tear apart a story, and they can give you new fuel for the fire. They can help as you work to show a character’s inner conflict, determination, and most important, authenticity.


Move. The. Chair. (Photo: Ian Muttoo on Flickr / CC-by-SA 2.0)

Move. The. Chair. (Photo: Ian Muttoo on Flickr / CC-by-SA 2.0)

Did you know that sometimes directors put a chair in the middle of the audition space just to see what you’ll do? True story. Will you ask to move it because it’s in your way, or will you make it awkward for yourself (and others) and try to maneuver around it?

Take the initiative and ask if you can move the chair. Or better yet, move it to where you need it, and USE it! Directors are looking for energy, originality, and creativity, so OWN IT! And speaking of….


What are you going to do that will make you captivating – someone they can’t afford to let out of the room without a part?

Any suggestions, you ask? Brilliant question!

How about choosing a song no one expects?!? You want something that is going to deliver instant success and results. That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to say, “Look at me! I can belt!” or “Hi! I have a three and a half octave range.” Good for you. Know that if the director is interested in you long enough, they’ll ask about those kinds of skills. Instead, your piece needs to show that you are sustainable. The audition, though important, is not the final destination, so you have two minutes (or less) to demonstrate that you can hold your own, and put on a solid show.

Perhaps make an up-tempo a ballad, or vice-versa. Or you know what often gets overlooked? Duets! Because people know them as songs for two people, they don’t consider the fact that there’s some good meat in there. “Who Will Love Me As I Am” from Side Show and “I’d Give It All For You” from Songs For A New World are great examples. And if you’re really daring, gentlemen, try using your part to “Saying My Goodbyes” from Elegies. And ladies, take a look at “The Things I Never Said” from First Date.

Below is a list of songs that you might want to look into for upcoming auditions. You may have heard and sung them a hundred times, but sing it one more time using directional words, or perhaps sitting instead of standing. See if that doesn’t open a new door.


  • My House – Matilda
  • Anywhere But Here – Honeymoon In Vegas
  • All Falls Down – Chaplin
  • I’d Rather Leave While I’m In Love – Boy From Oz
  • This Time – Now. Here. This.
  • Everybody’s Got A Home – Pipe Dream
  • Shopping Around – Wish You Were Here


  • The Proposal – Titanic
  • Telly – Matilda
  • Rosie – Bye, Bye, Birdie
  • Memphis Lives In Me – Memphis
  • Who I’d Be – Shrek
  • Red Ryder Carbine Action B.B. Gun – A Christmas Story
  • What Say You, Meg – The Last Ship

Other songs you think might not work, but probably will:

  • You’re Never Alone – Bridges of Madison County
  • Here Right Now – Ghost
  • Aquarius – Hair
  • Lullaby of Broadway – 42nd Street
  • Marry Me – The Rink
  • Shine Like The Sun – 9 to 5
  • Something Good – The Sound of Music
  • There’s A Boat That’s Leaving Soon For New York – Porgy and Bess
  • Wick – The Secret Garden
  • Is Anybody There? – 1776

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