Auditions or try-outs for a role in a Broadway show are very formal. Even though we all know each other on the Great White Way, or many of us do, when a new show is being cast, they are usually looking for something, or someone, different.
It’s true that sometimes producers of a new show will search for another Kristen Chenoweth or another Audra MacDonald, or even a star from a previous era such as Pearl Bailey or Sutton Foster, but you can be sure that whatever the new producers in Town are looking for, it will be something elusive, something that all of us who attend auditions will have to dig deep to manifest. We all have star quality though and it’s knowing that that keeps us going through the many auditions.
One of my favorite Broadway stars is Nathan Lane. He has never really let himself be typecast and that’s a good thing because sometimes your physical type can lead in a certain direction. If you are slim and a blonde you can be typecast as an ingénue, or if you are a redhead you can be typecast as a fiery personality.
As I was saying, the audition process is quite formal. It’s nothing like the old “cattle call” thing, although I have seen some general auditions, where lots of unknowns set up camp on the footpaths waiting for the doors to open. Mostly, though, my agent tells me if a new show is being cast, or the producers of a new show will take out an ad in the trade papers. A company may also put up ads on the Internet. All the ads for casting a new show give lots of detail so that we can prepare for the audition and “get into character” first. General details about a character will be given out such as a harried shopkeeper, spoiled teenager, a gangster on the run, along with some information about physical type such as tall, short, skinny, blonde or brunette. The next level of detail in preparing a character is the kind of theater skills that are required. This means a certain type of voice is required such as a jazz singer, an opera singer, or a rock singer. A dancer must be versatile and able to perform in all styles from waltzing to hip-hop because each role demands a different style. Auditions will also be held for the chorus line with specifications about age and type of person being shown in the ads.
Most companies will only audition performers who are members of Actor’s Equity, such as myself. Once I’ve thoroughly prepared a character that I’d like to try out for, I make an appointment for my audition.
The audition is similar to a full, professional performance in character. Those of us who are auditioning will have prepared a monolog and our performance will demonstrate our skills to the fullest, including anything special that is needed for the part such as speaking in a foreign accent or doing the Can-Can.
For a big show, there may be several callbacks as the producer and director of a show gradually narrow down the number of performers who might be perfect for the part. Callbacks can be even more grueling than the original audition as you may be asked to try-out for a different part that you have not prepared for.
Still, callbacks make you feel hopeful because your talent is being recognized and the producers may remember you for a part in another show. We all leave our professional contact details with the staff when we go into an audition.
There are two shows being cast at the moment and I’ve got auditions booked for both of them … don’t ever Wish Me Luck or whistle when I’m around. I have my own special rituals that bring me luck and happiness.