10 More Songs NOT To Audition With

First of all, thanks to everyone who have been reading my little blog here on AussieTheatre.com… It’s great to have your readership and I love reading your comments!

So, I’d like to do a sequel to probably my most read, commented on, re-tweeted and reposted article 10 Songs NOT To Audition With, with ten more!

Many of these were suggestions from readers who commented on Facebook, but also a few others that I’ve encountered from recent auditions I’ve sat in on.

So, let’s get to it!

#1. “Popular” from Wicked.

Yes, we know it’s a wonderful character piece that shows off how perky you are, but I’m sad to say that after playing it more than 10 times in the last auditions I played piano for, it’s all a bit old.  Time to give it a rest for a few years, by which time you’ll be singing something else.  And yes, you really did hear a collective sigh of despair from the audition panel when you said you were singing “Popular”. (Thanks Catherine L for the suggestion!)

#2. “Defying Gravity” from Wicked.

No, I’m not bashing the show – I love Wicked, but this is another song that people should leave alone – simply because it is a powerhouse of a song that demands the best singer to pull it out every time.  It’s not a song for the faint-hearted, nor for the “amateur” singer.  You have to be damn good to be able to nail this song.  Give it a wide berth unless you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you can bring the house down with it.  (Thanks to Flick K!)

#3.  ”Memory” from Cats.


This is right up there with “Send In The Clowns” (as mentioned in my previous list). Yes, it’s a pretty song, but it’s been done to death.  Repeat: done to death.  And often it’s not done very well at all – especially in audition situations.  What brings people undone?  Partly the first note of the song, partly the range, and mostly the emotion that you must have to carry it off.  You can’t “just” sing the song.  But mostly, we’re over it.  It’s a bit like the theme from Titanic, not even radio wants to touch it anymore.

#4. “Out Tonight” from Rent.

Back to Rent again. The problem with “Out Tonight” is that more of a rock song than an audition song, and while the “ow ooooo” is always fun to sing, again, sadly, the song has been done waaay too much.  In fact, that kind of brings me to …

#5. “Take Me Or Leave Me” from Rent.

The problem with really popular and successful musicals is that they become common fodder for every potential audition.  Invariably, there are three or four songs that are “singled out” as THE numbers of the show.  So, they appear in auditions too many times.  That’s the trick you want to try and avoid.  Sure, if you love a particular show, sing a song from it, but look for a song that is separate from the ones that everyone else it going to use.  But back to “Take Me Or Leave Me” – guys, it’s a DUET!!  It’s meant to be sung as a DUET!! You’re singing in a SOLO audition!  (Thanks to Shari C for the last two suggestions).

#6. “Mr. Cellophane” from Chicago.

I can hear gasps everywhere. You’re going at Chicago? Yup, sorry. And a blokes song?  Yep, sorry again! “Cellophane” is a great character song, but the problem is (as I’ve stated a bit in this post) it’s one that’s done by a lot of character actors as a way of showing off their more left-of-centre ability. Try and find another piece that serves the same purpose. Plus, there are one or two quite definitive versions of the song that every other performance is judged by. Singer beware!  (Thanks To Samantha for this one!)

#7. “When You’re Good To Mama” from Chicago.

Unfortunately, the twitter sphere and Facebook lit up with Chicago as pretty much a no-go too. I tend to agree. The songs are classics, for sure, but again, that’s part of the problem. There is a reputation that you must live up to when you decide to pull one of these songs out in an audition. ”When You’re Good To Mama” is a typical example. It’s a strong female piece, a powerhouse song, and if you don’t get it just right, then it’s oh-so-wrong. Plus, it gets really low in the register for it’s major tag line – particularly early in the song. And it’s also a bit of a character piece. And it’s also getting some serious repeat play in auditions because of the fact it’s a great, strong, vocally challenging, character song. Steer clear and find another!

#8. Disney Songs.

I must admit, this was a surprise to me, seeing there are many great Disney movies that have turned into stage shows like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and The Hunchback Of Notre Dame.  But the twitter-sphere, and the Google-sphere seem to be quite in unison, that Disney songs are best avoided.  Personally, again, I would go for the less “used” songs from their catalogue.

#9. Your Favourite Rock/Pop/Jazz/Other Song That’s Not From A Musical.

It’s probably one of the biggest no-no’s that inexperienced auditionees make.  They think that doing a Beatles number, or a song from the Top 40 is okay for a musical theatre audition.  Hell, I’ve done it too.  Especially when you’re just starting out in the “musical theatre scene”, it’s an easy mistake to make.  But popular music writing is a totally different form of writing to musical theatre writing.  And when you walk into an audition with a pop song under your arm, it immediately tells the audition panel that you’re not experienced, even if you do the song well.  Now, I guess you could make a claim that you could use material from Mamma Mia, We Will Rock You, Rock Of Ages or any number of jukebox musicals (hell, maybe even Glee?), but I reckon it’s probably best to steer clear of them, unless you’re auditioning for a jukebox musical.  If you’re going for a part in a JB musical, then ignore I’ve written above!

#10. A Song That Your Friend The Musical Theatre Composer Wrote From The Show That Hasn’t Done Anything Yet.

Sigh.  As much as it pains me to say it, being a musical theatre composer myself, you really shouldn’t audition with a song that your friend wrote just because no one has heard it before and because you think it’s cool.  I know it’s a nice gesture and all to your friend the composer, but the problem is that no one has ever heard of it before – so there’s no reference point for the audition panel to draw from.  Jason Robert Brown actually said this too, so I guess it’s good to listen to his advice!

So, come on guys!  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Read the first 10 Songs NOT To Audition With.

Photo by: florriebassingbourn

Drew Lane

Andrew “Drew” Lane was born in Melbourne, and began playing piano at the age of four. At age 15, he began to write his own material, and was also introduced to musical theatre via shows such as Starlight Express, Les Miserables and Time. From that moment on, Drew was actively involved in musical theatre at a rehearsal pianist, musical director, or on stage performer. In 1992, Drew composed his first musical for high school, Back Streets, and in 1994, Drew was accepted into the Ballarat Academy of Performing Arts, where he honed his skills, not only as a composer, but also as a performer. Gaining valuable experience on stage and behind the scenes helped him to realise his next musical, Atlantis. A workshop production was staged for the Ballarat Opera Festival in 1996 and gained rave reviews. In the following years, Drew took up teaching but was also able to regularly composer and stage his own productions including Eva’s Wish (1997, Anacortes, WA, USA), Revelations (1998, Touring, Victoria, Australia), and Toys (1999, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia). In 2010, Drew's musical Marking Life was chosen to be part of the Festival of Broadway, hosted by the University of Tasmania, and was performed for Steven Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, Pippin). A prolific composer, Drew hopes to be able to take his musicals to Off-Broadway or the West End, and believes that his best writing is yet to come. He is presently completing his Master’s degree in Performing Arts, and has several new musicals presently in development. Drew is proud to be a regular contributor to AussieTheatre.com and looks forward to hearing from all of his readers!

Drew Lane

2 thoughts on “10 More Songs NOT To Audition With

  • how about “I am telling you I am not going”

  • So I actually am auditioning for a JB musical rock of ages – any song suggestions?


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