This past Friday, I made a video for singers who are auditioning for Golden Age musicals which I called “5 Tips for Giving a GREAT Golden Age Musical Audition.” You can watch that here (and I hope you do):
Or you can read on and I’ll outline the tips for you. For specifics, watch the video.
Golden Age is technically the period from 1943-1959, but you can choose audition repertoire from 1925-1942 (the Jazz Age) and 1960-1974ish (often referred to as Classic Musical Theater).
If you know who wrote the musicals of the era, you can figure out what their compositional language was – do they all the sound the same? (Maybe to some people, but then they’re not listening hard enough.) What were their influences? What was their objective? What was their style?
Which brings us to:
Not only do you need to know the style of the musical for which you are auditioning, but also the vocal/performance style that is appropriate for the era. Things to consider:
The Golden Age is a pragmatic period. Expressing emotions in a natural way is key, so there is consonant energy (a holdover from the Jazz Age), but for the legit characters, there are pure vowels and more space (a holdover from the operetta). Legit is head dominant. There is belting, but it doesn’t go as high, and it’s not as dramatic as today’s screlters. It’s a question of voice type, or what is called fach in opera. I’ve attached a chart I made, based on info I got from StageAgent about the prevalent voice types during the period. Check it out here: https://mezzoidvoicestudio.blog/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/What-the-Fach.pdf (I don’t entirely agree with all of the designations.)
For more comprehensive discussion of all the elements, watch the video.
Once you know the era, the composers, and the style, it’s time to:
Not only are you picking the right song for the occasion (which show, which role), you also have to pick the right song for yourself. Know your voice. Also, know what the audition requirements are. Do they want a whole song? A cut? How long of a cut? How do you make that cut? What will it show? Are you supposed to sing a song from the show or not? If not, what will you pick that mirrors the style of the show for which you’re auditioning?
Try not to pick something from a contemporary show unless it is truly retro in style. Or unless it is similar to the character for whom you’re auditioning. For example, singing “World Burn” when you’re auditioning for Ado Annie is probably not a good idea.
Once you’ve picked the song, now you actually have to:
Steps to learning a song:
- LISTEN to the original cast recording (OCR) – not because you want to imitate it but to know how it sounds as a whole. What is the orchestration? How is the singer phrasing things? It is very likely that the composers were at the recording session. If the singer isn’t singing exactly what is on the page, it very well might be that this is how it evolved over the course of the production, and if the composers were there, they were probably cool with it. This is referred to as performance practice. (Here’s an advantage musical theater singers have over opera singers – we can’t know how Verdi or Mozart would feel about the way people are singing their music because we have no recordings of the original productions.)
- LOOK at the music. What do you see?
- The accompaniment – you’ve already listened to it, but what do you see? Is it boom-chick, does it flow, is it full, is it transparent? Do you get cues from it? If you’re doing an a cappella audition, do you need the piano to give you any key changes? Are there long interludes between vocal entrances?
- What are the dynamic markings? If there aren’t any, what should there be? Figure out how the text and the music are working together to create a mood, and determine the WHY for your dynamic choices.
- SING it for someone! A teacher, a parent, a trusted friend. Take advice, keep an open mind. Know it so well before you sing it that you will feel confident at the audition. Remember, you don’t want to practice till you get it right – you need to practice till you can’t get it wrong.
There are repertoire suggestions in the video above, plus I also put these tips to practical application in Saturday’s class on Preparing a Golden Age Audition Song, in which we worked on learning the song Edelweiss (which I consider the “Happy Birthday” of musical theater – it’s a limited range, everyone knows it, and it’ll make your grandma happy).
Enjoy these screenshots from the second video, which I call “Faces of Chrissie.” 😀
Right after I finished Friday’s video, I found out about the passing of Stephen Sondheim, which devastated me. I will be writing about that on Thursday.
If you have an audition coming up for a Golden Age musical and you’d like to work on finding that perfect piece, please watch the videos and contact me for a coaching. I will have some time right after the New Year.