Category: Actors


So here’s something worth thinking about with regards to this year’s Tony Award nominations, which were announced on Tuesday morning. The quartet of young actors who play the title role in Matilda were deemed ineligible for the award – for reasons not forthcoming, but easily guessable – and, to make up for their ineligibility, were given special honorary awards to recognize their work. Fair enough. I had problems with the trio from Billy Elliott being nominated/winning together last year, as did many others, questioning whether the award was being given for the acting work (really, are all three identically, uniformly, worthy?) or for the role as written. Not all nominators/voters could see all three young performers, and the same problem would have occurred had the Matildas been eligible. This was a slightly awkward, but probably least awkward, way of handling the issue for 2013.

But the young actress playing the title role in the 2012 revival of Annie, Lilla Crawford, performs the role by herself, unlike either the Billys or Matildas (nothing against them — it’s simply a different casting/directorial decision, and no reflection on the individual performers, all of whom must be highly talented as well as fortunate to be acting on Broadway at such a young age). The controversy over last year’s decision to award the Tony to three performers for a single role didn’t affect Crawford’s initial eligibility. She was deemed eligible for the Leading Actress in a Musical category, and there is certainly precedent for a child actor to take home the Tony — see Daisy Eagan, who won the Tony for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical when she was 11 (The Secret Garden; 1991) and Frankie Michaels, who was only 10 when he received his Tony for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Mame; 1966). (The fact that Eagan was put in the ‘featured’ category, rather than lead, is a different issue. The trio from Billy Elliott won in 2012 in the leading performance category, as Crawford might have had she been nominated; this is the category sought by the producers of Matilda for their four stars.)

The Tonys aren’t the only theater awards in town, of course, and Crawford has been recognized by a nomination for the Distinguished Performance Award in the 2013 Drama League Awards, for one. (The eponymous stars of Matilda were not, it may be worth noting. Perhaps for the same problem of multi-casting — can you call it an award for a distinguished performance if all four share it? Yet how do you single out one of the four and say “Yeah, you, Matilda #3, you were better than the others”?) Still, the Tony Awards are the best known and most mainstream theater awards. It’s worth thinking about the fact that, likely to avoid a repeat of last year’s controversy, the Tony eligibility committee gave one set of young performers a special award to avoid even nominating or not nominating them… Then gave nothing – not even the nomination – to the hard-working young star of Annie.

I haven’t seen any of these actresses in their snubbed performances, myself, so for all I know, maybe Lilla Crawford is terrible as the famous little orphan, and the quartet of Matildas thoroughly deserving of every Tony or not-quite-Tony award offered them. Either way, though — it’s worth thinking about.

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.

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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.

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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!

The very first thing I posted here and on the Upstaged Facebook page yesterday was an announcement that Anne Hathaway would be making her Broadway debut this September as Sally Bowles in a revival of Cabaret. This morning, Twitter informed me that this announcement was a sad, sad hoax, and Broadway.com took it all back. So I deleted the posts.

I really feel like that’s an inauspicious beginning for Upstaged, but let’s call it a rehearsal.

Still, I really liked the idea of Hathaway as Sally. After her award-winning turn in the Les Miserables movie, it seemed completely plausible as well as completely awesome. I’d totally buy tickets to see that. (Especially as Alan Cumming would also be/is in fact in the production.) (Until they tell me that one was a false rumor, too. Lies and deception everywhere I turn!)

Sally may not be played by Anne Hathaway any time soon, but the role has been performed previously by her Les Mis co-star Samantha Barks, as well as movie stars Molly Ringwald, Lea Thompson (who will never, ever be anything other than Marty McFly’s mom to me), Brooke Shields, and the eternally wonderful Dame Judi Dench. And yes, in case you couldn’t tell from my superlatives, that last is the one I most wish I could have seen.

Who would you most love to see play this iconic Broadway role? Leave your dream casting in the comments. (Bonus points for dream cast Emcees to go with your Sallys!)