Picking the perfect song for an audition is stressful. It is, in fact, way more stressful than the situation merits. After all, in the end, you’re still the same singer/actor/face whatever you pick. Still, the song choice does make a difference — you want it to show off your range and vocal ability, you want lyrics that work outside of the show’s context, you want a character/story with which you can connect… And maybe that’s why some songs, songs that seem to have these magic qualities, get used over and over and over and over again. Thus completely negating any audition-worthy traits they had in the first place.
So here it is — my list of the top 5 songs to avoid taking to an audition: Teenage/20something Belting Girl edition!
1. On My Own (Les Miserables)
This song is like a cockroach. Every time you think its popularity may have waned, they go and have an anniversary tour, or a concert recording, or a damn (surprisingly good) (but let’s talk about the camerawork later) movie. And back it comes, with its easy range and plaintive “omg I TOTALLY get Eponine” unrequited love/awkward girl connections. I was using this song for my auditions 10 years ago, so I guess I can’t pretend not to understand its appeal. But still. Still? After all these years? Always. (Snape out.)
2. Astonishing (Little Women)
A slightly newer favorite, and maybe less obvious than “On My Own” — “Astonishing” is the “On My Own” of those who have actually been in a few shows. Don’t get me wrong, I totally get the appeal. If you have the voice for it, it’s a great show piece. It requires absolutely no context for the faintly generic lyrics. It’s easily and tidily cut. And the “I’ve just got to get out of the suburbs and be superduper awesome!” message couldn’t resonate more with a particular type of wide-eyed girl dying to belt her way onto Broadway. But roughly 80% of the people who choose it, can’t sing it, probably because if you’ve been around enough, had lessons and been in shows enough, to be able to sing it… you have other options and know that “Astonishing” isn’t astonishing anymore.
3. I’m Not That Girl (Wicked)
Do I even need to explain? Like “On My Own”, this song’s unspecific lament of unrequited love strikes a chord with many of the “she’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers” set, and there’s something to be said for acting what you know. But it doesn’t show off your voice (not even as much as “On My Own” does) and really, no one’s interested in how much you totally ARE Elphaba. It’s possible that in many, many more years, it’ll be useable, but it’ll never be a strong audition piece even when it’s less popular. Remember, just because a song resonates with you, doesn’t mean it’ll do you any favors in the audition room.
4. The Story Goes On (Baby)
Choosing this song for an audition, you get a little more leeway from me. At least it’s a lesser known show, and props for picking Maltby and Shire. But you know, there are other songs in Baby. There really are. (“Patterns” is my favorite.) (“Patterns” is my favorite in every category.) I get it — it’s youthful, it’s vocally showy (if you got it, flaunt it), and to its credit, at least it’s an optimistic song, unlike certain other loser-girl ballads on this list. If no one else in the world had ever conceived of using this song for an audition, I’d say go for it (unlike “I’m Not That Girl”). Unfortunately, everyone else had the same bright idea as you. And considering the consistency and longevity “The Story Goes On” has had in the 30 years since Baby opened on Broadway, there probably will never be a chance for you to take it out. Sorry ’bout that.
5. Anything by Frank Wildhorn
Look. I get it. Those dramatic mezzoland ballads make you feel powerful and significant. The lyrics are so generic, you can imagine any story you feel like acting onto them. The key changes generate a false sense of excitement. I GET IT.
But seriously, if you’re dragging a Wildhorn song to an audition, you need to reconsider your life choices.
Story time: Ten years ago, I sang “Memory” (yes, THAT “Memory”) at an audition for the school edition Les Miserables. Somehow, I was cast anyway. (To be fair, the girl who ended up playing Cosette also sang “Memory”…right before me…and better.) Despite my own inability to pick a less ridiculous audition piece, I still took note of how many people came in with Wildhorn songs (mostly Jekyll and Hyde — the boys prefer The Scarlet Pimpernel). I estimated roughly 60-70% of the girls sang Jekyll and Hyde – 90% of that was “Someone Like You.”
Let’s all agree to end the madness now.
Remember! Just because you shouldn’t bring it into the audition room, doesn’t mean you can’t sing it in your shower. I thoroughly encourage singing these songs in the shower. There is no better venue for a Wildhorn ballad, in fact, and the water streaming down your face totally hides your tears of unrequited love.
What other songs would you recommend avoiding at auditions? Or do you disagree with my list – do you think the virtues of “Astonishing” outweigh its unfortunate overuse? Do you really, really, REALLY connect with Eponine and Elphaba and just need to share that with the casting director? Comment below!