The Cattle Call Musicals Audition And How To Deal With It

Sep 26 06:50 2008 Jeremy Fisher Print This Article

If you want to audition for Musicals on Broadway or in the West End, and you don't have an agent, you need to go to the Cattle Call. This article describes the cattle call, what you need to take and what you need to do to succeed.

There are new musicals being written every year,Guest Posting and long-running shows being recast regularly. But there are thousands of actor singer dancers seeking work in musical theater. You want to be heard for roles in these shows but you don't have an agent. Where do you start?

Every year, production companies run open calls. They are particularly useful if the show is new or in an unusual genre (grunge/folk/rock or Tuvan throat singing), if there is a serious lack of actors with the relevant casting requirements (ethnic casting or tightrope juggling), or if the casting directors simply want to know what's out there at the moment. Open calls are usually advertised in the theatre press (The Stage newspaper in the UK is an example). The open call can be quite a demoralising process (not for nothing are they called "cattle calls"), so this article will help you prepare for them.

The first thing you'll see when you arrive is a long queue. Depending on how popular the show is, the queue could be three times round the block, or just a small crowd. Be prepared to stand in the queue for several hours. Even 15 years ago, professional singer friends of mine were kept waiting for 7 hours on the auditions for nuns in The Sound of Music.

What should you carry with you? Your resume or CV and a photograph are essential. If the photograph is not attached, make sure that both the resume and photograph have your name and contact details on. Photographs and CV details often get separated, and it would be horrible if the panel remembered your face but then couldn't find your contact details on the photo. A bottle of water is vital, and either a book or an mp3 player is useful to while away the hours.

You will give your name to the auditions usher or stage door manager, and the audition begins. You might have only two minutes to walk onto the stage, give your name and sing your song. If you're unlucky, you'll have 16 bars. If you're really unlucky, they will ask you for your best single phrase. How do you deal with this?

Remember that the purpose of this audition is NOT to get the job! There is nothing realistic that you can do to make yourself stand out from the 1,000 other auditionees that day. Your mission is to get asked back to the first call (the first invited call, as opposed to the cattle call). Therefore your task is to appear professional, calm and focused. That's it.

If you look professional (dress appropriately, perform to a good standard, interact well with the panel) you will be noticed. If you seem calm you will score points too - cattle calls are difficult situations with a lot of "unknowns" - like not know what time you're actually going to perform, and a vast number of people breathing down your neck! If you are focused, you'll be able to sing your piece to the best of your ability, and lock into the character immediately. Being focused really "reads" well on a theater stage, so the panel will notice very quickly how well you do.

When I'm coaching for the 16bar audition, the key is practise EVERYTHING. The walk in, the hello, the piece announcement, giving the pianist the music (or the backing track), the getting into focus, the 16 bars (decided beforehand, please!), and the exit. Everything matters, including the way you talk to the auditions usher. It helps to choose song extracts that show your best assets (and that's not always the loudest or highest you can sing). A coach will help you present those extracts in the best way that fits you.

Notice I haven't said what you should sing! Ultimately, in a cattle call your choice of song is less important than how you sing it. I have been on cattle calls where actors singing the weirdest songs have been called back for the next audition, simply because they sang it really well. In a situation like this you want to stack the dice in your favour as much as possible. Take a piece you know really well - that way if nerves strike, and you will still feel secure in your song.

Panels find cattle calls just as horrible as you do, and believe me, they breathe a sigh of relief when someone professional, calm and focused turns up. Normally there are 3 heaps on the casting panel's desk. Yes, No, Maybe. Don't end up in any pile other than the Yes pile.

And if you give a clear, focused, professional performance and follow the rules in this article, you're much more likely to get to sing in the next round and stay in the Yes pile.

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Jeremy Fisher
Jeremy Fisher

Jeremy Fisher is the author of Successful Singing Auditions, and trains singers and performers to find and maintain their best. For articles, free downloads and information on effective vocal training, check out Vocal Process, the voice training company that's "revolutionising the way singing is taught" (LINK magazine)

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