10 Songs NOT to audition with

Here’s a topic that is sure to send some people into conniptions … what are the songs that you should never choose to audition with?

microphone image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/hiddedevries/
Image by hiddedevries

Of course, any list like this is completely subjective – and open to ridicule and derision. But, in my defence, I’ve played for and been behind the desk of enough auditions to make a little bit of an informed decision. Still, it’s an opinion.

Before I do put my Top 10 on the screen, let me say this: if you are able to absolutely nail these songs, then by all means sing them! But if you are only ‘okay’ or ‘good’, then please, go for something different…

So, here it is.

#1: ‘Tomorrow’ from Annie.
Please avoid at all costs! Every young girl (and their cat) attempts this song, and it’s nearly always excruciating. It’s whiny, it’s immature, it’s over-done, and most of all, it’s annoying!! Please, please, please, don’t bring this to an audition.

Ok … quick story time. I was the audition pianist for a version of Whistle Down The Wind, and the director decided that he wanted every child to sing ‘Tomorrow’ for their audition. Some 60 children and many hours later, I was sooo over ‘Tomorrow’ that I swore I would never play the damn song again. So please, don’t.

#2: ‘Where Is Love?’ from Oliver.
Ditto everything above but replace “girl” with “boy”. Unless you actually are Oliver, don’t go there.

#3: ‘On My Own’ from Les Miserables.
Firstly, I love this song. It’s beautiful. I love Les Mis. It’s stunning. But the problem with such a popular musical is that everything that can be done from it, does get done from it. And ‘On My Own’ has appeared in nearly every-single-bloody-audition since it came out. And because of that, it’s been completely overdone. Unless you can totally blow us away, avoid.

#4: ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ from Les Miserables.
Ditto for above as well. Plus it’s a terribly depressing song. Of course, if you can conquer every moment of it, then do so. But first you have to get over the collective dejected sigh of the audition panel.

#5: ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Miserables.
The male version of #3 and #4. You’ll tell the audition panel within the first 3 notes if you are up to the task or not. There no chance for nerves or for even settling in. You give yourself no chance or opportunity to find your way. It’s a tough song, and the octave jumps can bring even the best singer undone.

#6: ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ from The Wizard Of Oz.
Speaking of octave jumps… Here’s another one that you really don’t have much of a chance to settle into, especially if you start from the “some … where …” chorus. It’s a beautiful song, but unless you are Judy Garland herself, leave it alone. Plus, it’s been done and heard a lot … and done and heard badly a lot.

#7: Pretty much anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
OK, let’s get this out of the way. To clarify: even I have two ALW songs in my audition repertoire; ‘There’s Me’ from Starlight Express, and Sunset Boulevard from the same-named show. But what we need to realise is that many of his songs have been done to death. People have heard them too much. So unless you’re going to do one that’s a little more obscure (think The Beautiful Game, Whistle Down The Wind or The Woman In White), look elsewhere.

#8: ‘Send In The Clowns’ from A Little Night Music.
It’s one of Steven Sondheim’s most popular and most performed pieces. And that’s why you should leave it alone. Let’s be honest, many people say to never bring a Sondheim piece into an audition because it’s just too damn hard to sight read. That would (generally) be true; and (generally) true of Jason Robert Brown. But that shouldn’t stop you from using their material for auditions – just don’t use SITC.

#9: ‘One Song Glory’ from Rent.
Oh, I can hear the cries of despair as I write this. Yes, I love Rent too. And I love ‘One Song…’ as well. Then why not do it? Because it’s been done – a lot. Plus, the original recording is so ingrained in the musical theatre psyche that if you deviate, you’ll be crucified for it, and if you don’t do it to the same level of the recording, you’ll be crucified, and if you try and do it completely differently .. well, you get the gist. Go for ‘Halloween’ or ‘I’ll Cover You’ (Reprise) instead.

#10: Anything that you don’t understand what it’s about.
Ok, this is important. You can’t just “sing” a song in a musical theatre audition – you have to be the character and tell the story of the song. If you want to be in musical theatre, you have to be able to sell and tell the whole situation.

I’ve been quite a few people sing ‘Your Daddy’s Son’ from Ragtime, and absolutely murder it because they don’t understand the content of the song. Even when they’re asked about the song itself, they always give some lame-assed explanation that has nothing to do with the real truth in the song. Please, if you’re going to sing a song from a show, know what it’s about, know who sings it, and know why the song is sung by that character at that point in the show. If you know the purpose, the reason, the “why” of the song, then you will present it far more truthfully … and to be honest, you may find that you shouldn’t actually be doing the song at all, and that you should find something else to learn. Don’t choose a song just because you like it, choose it because you know it intimately.

So, there you go! Now, let me have it! What are your thoughts?

Until next week;

Blog ya later!

Image by: Hiddedevries


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

15 thoughts on “10 Songs NOT to audition with

  • What song would you suggest for my daughter who is 11 and wants to audition for a dancing group?

    • Susan,
      Here are a couple of suggestions for your 11 year old.

      Born to Entertain from Ruthless
      The Girl I mean to Be – The Secret Garden
      I Know Things Now- Into The Woods ( Yes, I know it is Sondheim but still a great song)
      Live Out Loud-A Little Princess
      Pulled- Addams Family Musical
      I Speak Six Languages or My Friend, The Dictionary- 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
      Quiet- Matilda
      What It Means to Be A Friend or The Lamest Place in The World- 13 (Yes, I know JRB but great songs. These may be over done though too.)

      Just a few suggestions.

  • Drew – how do you spell Stephen Sondheim?
    The audition book I bought on Broadway, said on Sondheim ever.

    • that was supposed to be “no”

      • The reason they say this is because the music is extremely difficult to sight read if the accompanist isn’t familiar with it. You may be able to sing Sondheim amazingly, but not if your accompanist is going to butcher the music.

  • And no JRB or Adam Guettel. Period.

    • Nonsense! Sure theyre difficult to play but in th UK its expected an audition pianist can. The only problem is cutting JRB.

  • You can audition with any song you can sing really well. Sometimes shocking the panel with a good rendition of an overdone song can single you out more than singing an obscure song for the sake of being different.

  • Yep. Agree with 10/10 yin this article.

  • May I contribute?
    Defying Gravity. Don’t do it.

  • I agree with all of this and more. If you’re going to sing at all, sing it well. And try to relate to it with your personal experiences. Otherwise, you might as well be the human equivalent of a player piano. You’ll have all the notes right, but no feeling in them.

  • So I can sing “bring him home” and i think i do it well. this is for community theater production of fiddler. Thoughts?

    • If you’re going to audition for the lead role Andrew, then I would suggest that you need to sing a more robust song, showing a big, exuberant personality, and the ability to move around the stage. ‘Bring Him Home’ is a gorgeous song, but the character singing it is a totally different kind of person – he has learned to control his emotions through his past painful experiences and shame. Good Luck!

  • I auditioned with 2 of these songs because the director told us to audition with them…

  • I’m doing an audition for the Addams Family, but i don’t know what do to. I’d like to go to Morticia or Wednesday, and id like to do “Pulled” but they wont accept songs from the production… Any thoughts or recommendations?


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