Posts Tagged ‘ auditions ’

Quite a compliment

Recently, someone who was on the audition committee for a show said that I caused great difficulty during the casting process.  Naturally, I apologised (I’m good at apologising, particularly if the apology is needless), but was soon reassured that this was not a bad thing.  Apparently, they could have slotted me in anywhere, which made the decision about what to do with me harder than it otherwise might have been.  A strange thought, but on reflection, it’s possibly one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received.  What better praise can there be for a performer than to have their flexibility or adaptability noted?  It’s nice to know that I’m a versatile singing librarian.

After the audition

Auditions are quite horrible things, no matter how much the panel may smile encouragingly or how many times you’ve acted or sung for them before.  Nerves are a quite volatile factor.  This is, of course, true in performance as well, but nerves have a different effect in the audition room.  In performance, they act as fuel, and without some level of nervousness a performance tends to be rather lifeless.  Also, before an audience, nerves can be used or covered in the process of presenting a character to the ‘big black giant’ in the auditorium.  Not so at auditions, at least not for the singing librarian.  No matter how much I might try to convince myself that it is a performance for a small, select audience, my lungs, tongue, hands and vocal cords do not get the message, or at least choose not to act on it.

Tonight, I had an audition for the musical Titanic.  This is a wonderful show, which I’m very (though quite quietly) excited about.  The music is breathtaking, the story is moving and the opportunities for actors and singers are numerous.  In the audition, we had to sing a song, any song, unaccompanied, then do a few exercises to prove that we had some measure of musicality.  I chose to sing ‘The Old Red Hills of Home’ from Parade (see Google for a selection of videos of this song) for a variety of reasons.  Firstly, it goes quite high, as do most of the male solos in Titanic.  Secondly, it’s a wonderful song.  Thirdly, it was written around the same time as the Titanic score.  Fourthly, it could show off what I can do in terms of acting a song – presenting a variety of emotions in just a couple of minutes.  It was a choice that I thought would cover all my bases.  Unfortunately, I am painfully aware that I did not do it justice.  Audition nerves kicked in and produced a quite impressive (but entirely inappropriate) vibrato from the very first note almost until the last.  Nothing I could do would stop it, not even closing my eyes and concentrating very hard on one particular line.  The song acquired an extra layer of wobble which it certainly will not have wanted.  I could blame it on the fact that we were unaccompanied, but it was nerves, pure and simple.

The exercises seemed to go well – pick out the high note, pick out the low note, sing a pattern of notes back to the nice lady at the piano.  But still there was the vibrato haunting me.  Part of me is very disappointed with myself – I could have performed the song so much better, and indeed have sung it better as I’ve been preparing.  Part of me wonders whether I should care – I am young, I am male, I can breathe, so I could well have just sung ‘Happy Birthday’ and left it at that.  I’d have a good chance of getting a role of some kind, even if by default.  But I didn’t do as well as I could have done, and that’s not a good way to start with a director and musical director who do not know me.

Within a week, I will know the outcome and we will begin learning the music.  The wait until the moment of truth will feel long, though, as there are a lot of people who expect great things of me.  I can feel them – colleagues, friends, relatives and others – hovering over my shoulder when I audition.  The more they expect of me, or perhaps the more they believe in me, the harder I find it to just relax and do my best.  Sometimes it feels as though there’s a lot more riding on my auditions and performances than there really is.  There’s a downside to developing a fan club, and that’s the perceived need to deliver more and better things to them in each new production. 

Perhaps many people feel like this, perhaps I’m an unusual case, who knows.  I just know one thing.  Regardless of what capacity I may be performing in, I echo the passengers as they sing “I must get on that ship!”

The Eynsford-Hill inevitability

A little over a year ago, I mentioned that one of the roles which I felt I was almost inevitably likely to play at some point in my life was young Freddy Eynsford-Hill in My Fair Lady.  Not, I think, due to arrogance on my part, but due to the sort of performer than I am and the sort of role that it is.  Well, said point is now on the horizon, the runaway steamroller of this iconic tenor role has well and truly hit me, and I can’t say I’m displeased.  The role is a small one, with relatively little to get to grips with in characterisation beyond “I am madly in love with Eliza Doolittle, who I can’t have”, but there is enough there to make me think that I might be able to do something with it.  And, of course, the role comes with a truly glorious prize in the form of the song ‘On the Street Where You Live’, which he gets to warble twice, once in each act.  I think it is uncontroversial to say that this is one of the best songs in the score, which is already far above average, and one of the best tenor songs in musical theatre.  You do have to slightly overlook the fact that Freddy is clearly utterly mad, and may in fact be a dangerous stalker, since he follows the leading lady home and waits on her street for days on end trying to get a glimpse of her.  But if you can ignore this uncomfortable truth, the song soars and swoops beautifully as the character waxes lyrical about the delights of walking down Wimpole Street, breathing the same air as his beloved.

Auditions for the production (which will run from 4th-8th March at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury should any discerning blog readers choose to attend) were eight days ago, rounding out the busy weekend which had already included two shows up in London the previous day and the stressful pleasures of teaching Sunday School in the morning.  Although the audition itself surely lasted less than ten minutes, I was in the place of audition for several hours, as they wanted to make decisions and announce results then and there.  This did at least avoid the horrible tensions of waiting for audition results, jumping every time the telephone rings and hiding from the postman.  It was very strange, though, as many people had been acting as though the casting of this particular role was a foregone conclusion, which actually made the audition harder in a way.  However, I refused to subscribe to the prevailing theory since, in amateur theatre just as much as in the professional world, there is always someone out there who is better than you.  No audition is ever truly a foregone conclusion and any audition panel who has made their mind up before the auditionees arrive deserves a good slap!

When I am older and less fresh-faced, I would love to have a crack at Professor Henry Higgins, a marvellous role for an actor who sings which would represent an incredible challenge.  But for now I will strive to do my best by the silly Eynsford-Hill boy, warble my aria passionately and continue to learn from those I perform with.  The role, though comparatively short on stage time, does present its own set of challenges and I am determined to make it my own.

Singing Librarian flashbacks: Dreams

I don’t often remember dreams.  I’m not sure why this would be.  It could be due to my sleep patterns, or a side-effect of my utter lack of a visual memory (I cannot picture anythingin my head), or maybe I just don’t dream as much as other people.  Whatever the reason, I very rarely wake up knowing that I’ve had a dream, and it’s very rare indeed that I remember what I was dreaming about.  I do remember two different dreams where my house went up in flames, though, and my dream self has killed at least two people I know (so watch out, mwah ha ha!) for some reason.  However, I do normally manage an anxiety dream in the days or weeks leading up to a performance, and this is the focus of this flashback.  No insights into the strange backstage world of the theatre, I’m afraid.  Just into my head!

I’m sure most performers of any kind and at any level have had the usual anxiety dreams – turning up late; forgetting the words, or the steps, or the music; turning up with no clothes on…  But that’s kid stuff!  My sleeping mind seems to be able to come up with some wonderful variations on this theme. Continue reading

Audition preparation

Many things in life make me nervous.  Performing.  Meeting new people.  Seeing crocodiles (or alligators) on the television.  Looking at my bank balance.  Watching someone I know perform.  But auditions are one of the worst things for nerves.  I know that the audition panel are not really evil monsters, that they want you to do the best you can do, and that any decision they make is unlikely to be personal.  But even so…they’re a terrifying experience.  The weeks leading up to them are rather scary as well.

This coming Sunday, I have an audition for Kiss Me, Kate.  Amateur, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less scary.  After much soul-searching, I decided to audition for two roles within the show – Bill Calhoun and Second Man.  Second Man is actually the best role, one of the two gangsters who are the root cause of much comedy and who get to sing ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’ at the eleventh hour.  The gangsters are often played by people older than my oh-so-youthful 27-year-old self, but the director is willing to consider anyone from their twenties upwards for Second Man, who is the subordinate (and marginally more stupid) one.  Bill Calhoun is a long shot, the juvenile male who plays Lucentio in the musical version of The Taming of the Shrew which forms a large part of the plot.  He’s a dancer, which is the main problem.  I can sing his songs and I can possibly be charming enough to play him if I try, but the dancing is the real worry.  Still, I can dance ‘in my fashion’, so I’ll just give it all I’ve got at the audition and see what happens. 

Continue reading

The other side of auditions

One of the duties that comes with being on the committee of my operatic society is being on the panel for society membership auditions.  Most of the other duties involved letters or e-mails, so interaction with real people makes a pleasant change.  And although I’d never want the responsibility of being on the casting committee for a show, I rather like doing this.  Tonight we had eight auditionees, as we’re beginning show rehearsals and that always brings a stream of people in.  It was a mixed bunch, but a pleasure to listen to.

We had songs from stage and screen, including ‘Chim, Chim, Cheree’ and ‘Music of the Night’, and even a traditional Welsh song.  Lovely.  None of it was painful, and it was heartening to see people overcoming nerves to sing to us.  Some just sang the notes and some really performed the song, giving it their all.  Some had ludicrously large ranges, one was very limited.  Some sang scales beautifully, some rather raggedly.  But it was interesting to sit and focus on someone else’s voice, hear the potential in it and think about its possibilities.  You’re really willing the person to do well, and feel a bit nervous on the behalf of anyone who’s shaking or sweating.  Having been on the other side of the divide many times (and soon to be again), being on the panel for this is probably very good for me, giving me an insight into the mind of the panel members and reassuring me of their good intentions.

We inform the auditionees of our decision by post, so thankfully there’s no call for immediate feedback, positive or negative, which would make me squirm.  I’m no Simon Cowell.  I’m just a young man who wants to see talented people join the society and have fun.  And hopefully that’s what most of tonight’s auditionees will do.

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