As a performer, you’re likely always on the hunt for the next great song to add to your repertoire. There’s nothing worse than having a good song that is over-performed and overused. That is the last thing you want for an audition piece.
Get ahead of that by utilizing some of our tips for finding music and more, to stand out during your next audition.
Creating a repertoire of signature songs is very difficult when so many good songs are so overdone. Unless you have a completely revolutionary interpretation of a well-known song, it can be difficult to stand out during an audition using one of them. As a result, the hunt for good audition songs is a never-ending process. And if you are newer to the process, it can be an especially daunting task.
Nevertheless, it’s actually never been a better time to find great, unique audition pieces. You can begin your search at your local library. Libraries have collections of physical CDs sorted by genre. It’s free to borrow those CDs, and you never know what treasures you might find hidden on the shelves!
For musical theater performers, a wonderful untapped source of great audition songs is the musical theater of foreign countries. While Broadway and West End musicals are translated and successfully staged worldwide, there are also a host of incredible musicals that have never been produced in English-speaking territories; or, if they have, they have not been major, successful, or well-known. Most of these musicals are available to listen to (or watch!) on YouTube or iTunes or Spotify, and you can usually find English language demos — especially if there were hopes of staging it on Broadway or on the West End at some point.
Similarly, some shows have been written in English but, for some reason or another, they have only been performed in foreign settings. Frank Wildhorn’s musicals, notoriously, have had more success in foreign markets than in his native United States: While his Dracula was a flop on Broadway in 2004, it has been successfully staged for German-speaking audiences. Meanwhile, while his Carmen and Rudolf and Count of Monte Cristo only ever received demo recordings in English, they have had productions staged in Czech, German, Hungarian, and Russian. Thus, the existence of English versions of songs from foreign-produced musicals means that there is usually audio and sheet music available for them in English as well.
In the year 2023 it has never been easier, with just the smallest amount of research and knowledge, to access massive collections of just about anything online, shared by generous and meticulous collectors. There are myriad reddit.com communities—subreddits—dedicated to musical theater discussion (notably r/musicals and r/broadway), audition advice (like r/auditionadvice), and sheet music (like r/sheetmusic). Every subreddit has a search bar to help you look for specific things within the communities themselves, and they also typically allow you to make requests, or ask questions.
All you need is some patience in order to find and cultivate your personal collection of unique audition pieces. Along the way, you might even find a great cast album or opera or musician that you fall in love with!
Speaking of auditions, here’s a funny but right-on-the-money article about how to communicate effectively with the accompanist at an audition.
On the internet at large, there are a number of websites full of sheet music, either for free or available to purchase. To start, the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) has a huge amount of free sheet music available for works in the public domain (https://imslp.org/) as does the Choral Public Domain Library, ChoralWiki (http://www.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page). And of course, nearly any sheet music you might want to own can be purchased on sites like Amazon, MuseScore, (https://musescore.com/), Musicnotes (https://www.musicnotes.com/), and SheetMusicPlus (https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/).
If you are interested in combing foreign musical theater for audition-worthy pieces, here are just a few of the shows that have English-language translations available, and are also full of some incredible music:
Tanz Der Vampire (1997, Austria). Music by Jim Steinman, including reworkings of some of his earlier hit songs, including Total Eclipse of The Heart (which, in the show, became the love duet Totale Finsternis) and Objects In the Rearview Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear (Die Unstillbare Gier / The Insatiable Greed).
Elisabeth (1992, Austria). Possibly the most successful German-language musical of all time. Though it has never been adapted for English audiences, there are several songs from the show that have English translations available.
Romeo et Juliette de la Haine à l’Amour: (2001, Paris). With music and lyrics by Gérard Presgurvic. There have been a great many productions of this musical internationally, including one in London with English translations by lyricist Don Black.
Dracula: (2005, St. Gallen; 2008, Graz; 2021, Ulm). While Dracula was originally performed on Broadway, there were additions made (including new music) for the transition to the German stage. Either way, this means most of the show has audio and sheet music available in English.
Notre Dame De Paris: (1998, Paris). A wonderful musical based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which also had a full-length English language production.
Rebecca: (2006, Austria). Originally written in German by Michael Kunze with music by Sylvester Levay (the same team behind Elisabeth), this show became notorious for its disastrous aborted Broadway production, which involved the discovery of fraud and fictitious investors; after an FBI investigation and years of funding issues, the production team lost the rights to produce the show completely. However, as a result, English versions of the songs are available.
Count of Monte Cristo: (2009, St. Gallen). Written by Frank Wildhorn specifically for German actor Thomas Borchert (who has also appeared in Tanz Der Vampire, Mozart!, Elisabeth, and Dracula), this show was created in English first, and has an English language recording available.
No matter what audition song you choose, make sure your heart and soul are in your rendition, and bonne chance!