You're at an audition, getting in the zone and peacefully waiting until they call your name. You look around and notice everyone in the room has a 20 pound audition book in their lap and are chattering about looking for the "right" song before they go in. Now, you're doubting your choice of material, or if you should even bother.
There is so much wrong with this picture.
Too many musical theatre actors have the wrong idea about their audition books. They think if they cram 30 songs they've worked on once or twice into a binder they're ready for action!
It's true, you should have an arsenal of material to fit any type of audition. HOWEVER, the odds of you being able to flawlessly perform everything in that cornucopia of music at the request of the director is, well...not realistic.
First of all, no one needs to carry around that kind of book. If you're doing your job, you've researched the show, and the requirements in the casting call and have chosen a cut that is a good fit.
How many songs SHOULD I have in my book? When an actor walks into the room and plops their ginormous book on the piano and says, "What would you like to hear," you can hear the air being sucked out of the room from across town. It's like silently telling the musical director, "I'm a mess and have absolutely no clue what this audition is." If you have 5-6 pieces in your book of varying genres, you're good.
Now, don't get us wrong. You should have a larger variety of songs to choose from, but once you hit the audition room, leave those other choices at home. The MD and your chiropractor will thank you.
Should I have a table of contents? Yes. If they ask for something else, you won't waste time searching through your book trying find what they want. And while we're on the subject, adding tabs to your book is a smart idea.
How long should my cut be? Stop counting measures and start timing. It's not the golden age any more, where every song was written in neat 8 or 16-bar segments. A 16-bar cut should be around 30-40 seconds. In that very rare instance they request a 32 bar cut, it should be about 60 seconds.
Do I have to include the whole song in my book? Yes. Music directors look at your book. If they see you have only cuts of the song, they may question how deeply you've worked on it. Sure it sounds nice, but did you tell a story?
How long can I keep a song in my book? This can be a sensitive issue, but if you are a 40-year-old woman, it's time to take out "Mr. Snow"...
The bottom line? Size doesn't matter, at least in this case. Have 5-6 well cut and prepared pieces in your neat and tidy audition book complete with table of contents, and stop worrying about everyone else...they're too busy trying to pick the right song anyway.
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Have an audition book story to share? We'd love to hear your best/worst stories in the comments below.
Kevin Kelly - theConnectedPerformer.com