If your go-to is ‘Popular,’ it’s time for a wake-up call
By Rebecca Peterson, Humour Editor
August is an important month for performers—a time for auditions, as the theatre circuit gears up for its winter season. From pantomimes to Christmas carols, there’s no shortage of opportunities to get your foot in the backstage door. However, you might be shooting yourself directly in that foot by choosing clichéd, inappropriate, or expired audition material.
So, from one theatre nerd to another, here’s a list of audition songs you should absolutely 100 per cent NOT USE for your audition, no matter how much Google insists it’s a good idea.
“Popular” from Wicked
I know it’s a fun song. I know it’s tempting to show off your best “character voice” while giggling and preening your way through all those hilarious one-liners. I know you want to show off your incredibly original fun side by mimicking the lapsed ballet flouncing during the “lar laaar” segment that Kristin Chenoweth cracked everyone up with on Broadway. But seriously. Don’t. I can’t stress this enough. Do not audition with “Popular” from Wicked.
Why? Because literally everyone and their precocious 12-year-old sister has auditioned with “Popular” from Wicked. It’s done. It’s over. The minute you start in with that nasally soprano line of “Whenever I see someone less fortunate than I,” your audience has tuned you out for the sake of their own sanity. Guaranteed that they hear this song at least five times every audition cycle. Save them, save yourself.
“I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables
I’m going to say this, and I’m going to dodge all the cookware about to be lobbed at my head for saying it, but here goes: Susan Boyle’s rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” was not that great. Her voice was fine but her phrasing was absolutely whack. With that out of the way, let me tell you why you should not under any circumstances audition with this song.
For one thing, it’s clichéd. Like with “Popular,” it’s one of those songs that everyone—everyone—has sung. It’s not nearly as annoying as “Popular,” but the problem with songs that everyone has done is that you are now in a position where you’re being compared to everyone else who has done that piece. Maybe I’d be more accepting of Susan Boyle’s machine gun delivery if I hadn’t heard the song done better a thousand times before, but I have, so it’s immediately jarring to me to hear it massacred like that. Make life easier for yourself and avoid the temptation.
“On My Own” from Les Misérables
Overdone, and you can’t hit that C. Next.
“Think of Me” from Phantom of the Opera
I don’t know how, but this song manages to transform everyone who sings it into that high school choir soprano you always hated because she got the coveted solo at the Christmas concert every year. Also, it’s boring as hell.
“The Girl in 14G” sung by Kristen Chenoweth
I remember going to my first big city audition, sitting in the hall outside the audition room in an intimidating crowd of teenagers with headshots and agents on speed dial, and listening to not one, not two, but four renditions of this vocal cord-busting number. And that was just while I was sitting there. Who knows how many more girls tried their hand at an original performance of it long after I’d fled the premises following my complete faceplant of an audition.
For those who don’t know it, this song goes through a million different vocal stylings to show off Kristen Chenoweth’s considerable range, from opera to jazz to theatre and back. This may sound like a fantastic way to show off your own range, but it is not. For an audition song, it’s distracting and long, and only shows that you have the same range as at least three other performers before you.
Anything that shows up on the “Thespian Peacock” meme Facebook page
The year that “Taylor the Latte Boy” came out was a sad year for auditioners—another “character song” making the rounds of every theatre person’s newsfeed, followed by the hilarious rebuttal from “Taylor’s” perspective. If you’ve seen it, your friends have seen it, and once again you’re stuck with the task of making this song your own even while mimicking the vocals and facial expressions of the person who made the song funny in the first place: Kristen Chenoweth.
I hope you’re starting to recognize a pattern here, and if you haven’t, let me spell it out for you. You are not Kristen Chenoweth. Only Kristen Chenoweth is Kristen Chenoweth. You will never sell your own skills and abilities if you’re stuck pretending to be Kristen Chenoweth. Basically, if Kristen Chenoweth has in any way shape or form even brushed her tiny elfin fingertips over a piece of music, consider it dead to you.
“Memory” from Cats
Best case scenario, they mock you the moment you leave the room. Worst case scenario, they shoot you in cold blood. Best not to risk it.