Don’t Panic: Musical Theatre Audition Advice

Neil Rutherford. Image by Blueprint Studios
Neil Rutherford. Image by Blueprint Studios

Auditions are scary.

Accomplished performers and up-and-coming graduates the world over are often crippled with panic at the idea of walking into a musical theatre audition room.

Acclaimed Casting Director (and Associate Director of Opera Australia’s current smash hit production South Pacific) Neil Rutherford knows this better than anyone. A long-time West End performer in his own right, Rutherford moved into casting ten years ago and since then has cast some of the biggest shows of the decade, including Legally Blonde, South Pacific, Spamalot and Sunset Boulevard.

Rutherford’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the casting process has been put to wonderful use in the form of a performer’s audition manual – Musical Theatre Auditions and Casting which launches today at the Sydney Opera House in a special Q&A hosted by Kate Ceberano.

For details click here.

We asked Neil Rutherford what he believes are the most important things to remember when auditioning for musical theatre.

1. Preparation

Preparation of Material, Background Knowledge, knowing about the creatives you are auditioning for, researching the writers of the piece, and the piece itself.

Knowing all of that information is invaluable. At various levels of the audition process, you might need to know slightly more than you did at the beginning, but there is absolutely no point going in if you don’t know about the key things and the people you’re dealing with.

2. Ownership of the Audition

Yes, an audition might go horribly wrong, but you’ve got to find a way to take charge, take control, and let it be your audition.

3. Let it Go

Once you have left the room, when you know you have done the best you can do, throw it on the floor  and let it go, cause you can’t change it at that point.

That’s about sustaining your life within the business, really!

4. Be Brave

Be brave, not foolish! Don’t do something completely new and untested, but be brave enough to play with the creatives and try something. Don’t get stuck in your ways that you can’t open out to a suggestion – that’s part of the process.

It’s important to remember that auditioning is not about final performance, it’s about showing what the possibilities are. It’s about showing as many possibilities and assets to you skill base as you possibly can. It’s not about delivering the final performance yet – that’s why we have rehearsal!

It’s about showing “I’m capable of adapting, and listening” both of which are valuable traits!

Neil holds a BA Hons Degree from Middlesex University, London, and is also an accomplished composer and writer. He will be workshopping his new musical, Beyond Desire, in Australia with some of musical theatre’s biggest stars over the coming weeks before he heads back to London in September. 


Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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