A Step-by-Step Guide to How to Prep Your Audition Song

how to prep audition song

We’re coming down to the NTSA admissions deadline, and if you’re applying as a musical theatre actor, you might be wondering: “How do I get started?” Maybe you already have a song that you really like (check out our blog post on how to choose your audition song) but don’t know how to ensure that you’re delivering the best audition performance possible. We’ve created a step-by-step guide to how to prep your audition song, featuring “Candy Store” from Heathers.

1. Make sure that you’re singing a solo.

First of all, don’t pick a group number like “Candy Store” and try to edit that down into a solo. Choose a number that’s always been a solo instead, like “Lifeboat.” Otherwise, you’ll end up trying to cut out the additional vocal lines, or sing them all yourself, which will add an unnecessary awkwardness to your audition number. There are tons of fantastic audition songs out there! From “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” (from the 1940 Rodgers and Hart musical Pal Joey) to “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have” (from the 1965 [really weird] Lerner and Lane musical On a Clear Day Your Can See Forever), there are so many musical theatre solo songs just waiting for you to discover them! And as for pop-rock audition songs, just turn on Spotify and start adding to your repertoire.

2. Identify your objective.

You should be familiar with the musical that your song comes from. So if you were choosing “Candy Store” (don’t do it!), you should listen to the entire Heathers soundtrack and at least read the plot synopsis, if you can’t get your hands on a copy of the complete script. You need to be able to identify the character's objective in your song. What is Heather Chandler trying to accomplish in “Candy Store”? She’s just recruited Veronica into her inner-circle (in “Beautiful”), and now she wants to secure her loyalty. This is the number where she’s testing Veronica to make sure that she's really on her side — demanding that she forge a love note to overweight Martha from her longtime crush. When Veronica resists, Heather Chandler (and Duke and McNamara) sing “Candy Store” to keep her in line. So the objective in “Candy Store” is to get and keep Veronica on your side.

3. Break down your actions on paper.

After you’ve identified your character’s main objective, you need to go through your song line-by-line and break down your actions on paper. Let’s take a look at how we might do that:

I like 

Looking hot

Buying stuff they cannot

I like 

Drinking hard

Maxing dad’s credit card

What is Heather Chandler trying to do with these lines? How is she using them to get Veronica on her side? She’s pointing out how much better she is than everyone else — how she looks better, how she has more material possessions, how she’s more privileged, etc. She’s trying to inspire envy in Veronica.

I like skipping gym

Scaring her

Screwing him

I like

Killer clothes

Kicking nerds in the nose

The lyrics take a darker turn here. No longer is Heather Chandler talking about how much better she is than everyone else; instead, she’s singing about how much she enjoys making everyone else’s life a living hell. It’s not enough for her to be the prettiest or the richest. She likes “scaring her” and “kicking nerds in the nose.” So here, Heather’s trying to indirectly threaten Veronica. If she doesn’t comply, she’ll be the one getting kicked next.

If you lack the balls

You can go play dolls

Let your mommy fix you a snack

You can tell what Heather Chandler’s doing here just from the “nah-nah-nee-nah-nah” tone in her voice. She’s mocking and infantilizing Veronica; she’s making her feel immature because she won’t go along with what the Heathers want.

Or you could come smoke

Pound some rum and coke

In my Porscha with the quarterback

Heather Chandler’s just slammed Veronica for being immature; now, she’s presenting her with an alternative. She’s showing her what could be. Instead of hanging out with her lame old friends, watching Sesame Street and braiding each other’s hair, she could abandon those friends and fully commit to the Heathers instead. Which means drinking, smoking, and boys who will do whatever you want.

You want to continue going through the entire song, breaking each set of lines down into an action. What is Heather Chandler trying to do here? How does this set of lines help her get Veronica onto her side? Once you’ve finished, it’s time to move on to rehearsals. (Do not skip this part! It becomes obvious when we’re watching your audition song, and we can tell that you're playing an emotion instead of playing an action.)

how to prep audition song 2

4. Rehearse your song as a spoken monologue with someone else.

Figure out who you’re singing your audition song to. The answer should NEVER be “myself” or “the audience.” Even if you’ve chosen an audition song like “On My Own,” where no one else is onstage in the show, you need to choose someone else to sing to. Maybe you’re singing to your childhood best friend or one of the revolutionaries fighting alongside Marius. Maybe you’re even trying to explain your situation to Cosette, which could make for a really interesting performance! While you should have read the entire script, you can make small unspoken deviations (like pretending Eponine and Cosette are having a conversation) in order to get a really fantastic audition performance. Because seriously, who at the casting table is going to know that you’re singing to Cosette? You don’t announce it at the beginning of the song, no one’s actually onstage with you during your audition, so feel free to use the actions generated by that imaginary scenario to get the best audition performance possible.

You want to rehearse your audition song as a spoken monologue with another actor. So for “Candy Store,” recruit one of your friends to play Veronica for an afternoon, so that you know what it feels like to play all of your actions to someone. And we know. It’s really really hard to perform an audition song as a spoken monologue. Because songs rhyme and have rhythm and use tons of figurative language that no one would actually say in real-life. But give it a shot! Because really, an audition song is nothing more than a spoken monologue with some music thrown in.

5. Find an accompaniment track.

For most songs, this is the easiest step ever. Go to YouTube. Type in your song title and “karaoke.” That’s literally all you need to do to find an accompaniment track. At NTSA, we don’t require that you have an accompaniment track for your video audition, but it can definitely help us assess the quality of your vocal performance if you do have one. We know that singing with an accompaniment track can be a lot more challenging than singing without one — but take the three seconds to find a track on YouTube and then . . .

6. Practice, practice, practice.

Block off an hour of time and practice singing your song with the accompaniment track, so that you know exactly how everything works. We’ve seen beginner actors get completely comfortable with an accompaniment track after only 2-3 run-throughs, but we recommend scheduling a solid hour of rehearsal if at all possible. Finally . . .

7. Record and submit!

You can review our tips for filming your video audition here. Remember to click the submit button on your application! If you’re a perfectionist, we know that it can be difficult to decide if a specific video is “good enough.” That’s why we recommend that you don’t film your audition video more than five times. Set a limit and then choose the best one from those five. (You can even ask a trusted friend or coach to choose for you if you think the decision’s too tough to make.) But remember: done is better than perfect!

Ready to submit your video audition? CLICK HERE and apply today!

Posted on Feb 27, 2018 in Auditions  

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