Hi everyone! As the title says, I need some help! I’m currently working on a post that’ll most likely be coming out in two weeks after my spring break – I won’t be posting during that week – and I need to collect some data for it. So I made a Google Form! It’s pretty straightforward (I hope) and shouldn’t take too long. There are a few written questions, but don’t feel pressured to write a whole lot if you don’t want to. I wanna keep the subject of the post this data is for a bit under wraps right now, but I can promise you it’s gonna be great. Make your guesses on what it is in the comments! I’m really excited for it.
Well, that’s all I have. Again, here’s the Google Form link – after you’ve taken it, share it with your friends too! And if you haven’t already, check out Friday’s post on The Public Theatre and how it’s influenced Off-Broadway theatre over the years. Tons of your favorite shows started out there. Of course, I’ll be back on Tuesday with another post as always. It’s a review of the extraordinary “Come From Away” cast album – the show opens tomorrow at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre!
In the theatre world, auditions are essentially like job interviews. If you don’t do well in the interview, you won’t get the job. And just like with any job interview, people are always seeking out tips to optimize their audition experience. Practically every theatre blog, forum, and actor under the sun have attempted to give their advice in the past, so today I’m going to try my hand at it and cover some audition advice you’ve probably heard before and some you might not have even considered.
Before the audition
If you aren’t given specific audition sides by the director, chances are you’ll need to pick a song and monologue yourself. Generally, it’s best to pick a song and monologue that are similar in style to the show you’re auditioning for. For example, if you’re auditioning for a Sondheim show, it’d be best to pick song from another one of his shows that isn’t the one you’re auditioning for. It’s widely accepted that you should stay away from overdone songs that hail from popular, more recent shows like Wicked, Rent and Les Miserables. Make sure you can cut both your song and monologue to the length specified by the director. Start studying up on the show and your song and monologue to the point where you’re comfortable enough you can show the directors you’re the right choice for the part. Starting practicing at least three weeks before the audition to ensure you have everything memorized and your interpretation of the character you’re auditioning for is solid. Keeping your vocal health in check during the weeks leading up to your audition is also a must.
During the audition
As soon as you enter your audition, you should be aware of yourself. One thing that I feel a lot of people forget but find incredibly beneficial is being nice to everyone you meet, from others who are also auditioning, to the accompanist. If the directors see you’re particularly personable towards everyone, this tells them you’d be easy to work with. If your nerves start to get to you during the lead up to you going in front of the directors, let them. While this seems counterintuitive, feeling nervous can actually contribute to your adrenaline skyrocketing, which can be used to your advantage to channel into your performance. After your performance, make sure to thank everyone before you leave. Don’t stress too much while waiting for the cast list! Just know that you did your best and even if you don’t get the exact part you want that that’s okay. That just means the directors saw something in you that you didn’t! If you don’t get cast, don’t worry. Not every show is meant for everyone. Keep auditioning and practicing. Now get out there and break a leg!
What are your audition tips? Let me know in the comments!
In life, I feel that most people eventually come across a piece of art – a musical or otherwise – that they can say definitively changed their life. It can change their world outlook or inspire them to make a change in themselves. In my case it did all of the above and more. I discovered that piece of art when I was thirteen years old: the 2009 rock musical Next to Normal.
In short, Next to Normal, created by composing team Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, focuses on the character of Diana Goodman (originated by Alice Ripley), a mother with worsening bipolar disorder due to the loss of her infant son many years ago, and how her family is affected by her actions, her disorder, and their attempts to alleviate it through the help Diana’s doctor (originated by Louis Hobson). Moreover, Dan, her husband (originated by J. Robert Spencer), their teenage daughter, Natalie (originated by Jennifer Damiano), and her boyfriend, Henry (originated by Adam Chanler-Berat) must struggle and comes to terms with their situation all while dealing with their own underlying anxiety and depression, manifested in Diana’s hallucination of her and Dan’s son – now a teenager as well – Gabe (originated by Aaron Tveit).
To say Next to Normal is the first musical to deal with a topic like mental illness is an exaggeration. It’s simply not true; musicals like A Light In The Piazza and Spring Awakening have done it before. But I’d argue that Next to Normal has done it best, leaving audiences with a real, raw, and honest portrayal of what it’s like to be dealing with an illness that is all too often not taken seriously in media, despite the fact it affects so many seemingly “normal” families in real life – about 2.6% of the U.S.
Along with mental illness, dysfunctional families in media akin to the Goodmans in Next to Normal are typically pigeonholed into some kind of stereotype, i.e. “the crazies”. But in Next to Normal, this isn’t the case. Instead of a stereotypical portrayal, it’s a truthful one. Anyone who’s ever experienced a tough family situation – not necessarily in the dysfunctional sense – can relate to the Goodmans way of life, with already teen angst-riddled Natalie feeling like she’s been cast out into the background by her parents who are more focused on Diana’s disorder, and Dan attempting to keep his family together when things are certainly not as they should be.
Moreover, the show’s Tony performance in 2009 was introduced by none other than the late actress and writer, Carrie Fisher – who was an active mental health advocate and bipolar disorder sufferer herself. The show has also spawned many, many international productions after its Broadway closing in 2011. The most well known of which is Casi Normales (directly translates to “Almost Normal”), the Argentinian production, which ran from January 2012 to April 2015. The show is so popular in Argentina that original cast members from Casi Normales and Broadway came together in Buenos Aires in 2015 and 2016 to perform songs from the show in both English and Spanish.
Ps– it is never cliche when you tell me that Natalie got you through high school. She did the same for me. 💙
At the Tony Awards, Next to Normal walked away with awards for three of its eleven nominations – it’s the opinion of many that it was robbed of the Best Musical award by Billy Elliot. In 2010, Next to Normal was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama – a high honor that’s rarely given to musicals, the last of which at the time was in 1996 for Jonathan Larson’s Rent, a show dealing with similar heavy subject matter.
During a lighter moment in the show, Henry asks Natalie to a spring formal dance that’s set for March 1st in the song “Hey #1“. She eventually agrees, showing up late to the dance. Henry claims she looks “like a star, a vision in blue” in the song “Hey #3/ Perfect For You (Reprise)“. The date in real life has become somewhat of a symbol for Next to Normal fans, as many take to wearing blue to signify their connection to the show. And although the fans often remember each year, two original Next to Normal cast members – who have since moved on to bigger and better projects – only acknowledge the date on Twitter. Without fail, every year on March 1st Adam Chanler-Berat (original Henry) tweets Jennifer Damiano (original Natalie) the word “hey”, and within minutes, Jennifer tweets back “hey”, just as things were said in the show.
When viewed at a first glance, Next to Normal is a Broadway show who’s impact might seem insignificant, but in reality is greater than one could ever imagine. To me, the impact of Next to Normal hits you when you truly accept its message: someday, things will be okay. Maybe not now, but someday – with time and support. The March 1st tweets are a sweet, yet subtle reminder of how Next to Normal and its message of mental health awareness have held strong throughout the years, bringing each new listener – and myself – the same words of hope sung in the show’s powerful finale – there will be light.
Do you have a special connection with Next to Normal or another musical or play? Share it with me in the comments!
The 89th annual Academy Awards are this weekend, and with La La Land – an original musical – being one of the nominated films gaining a whole lot of traction, I figured we should take a look back at movie musicals of the recent past and how they came to be. Some of these films have also been accepted into the Oscar nominated club, and some haven’t. Opinions on these movie musicals vary, from being beloved by people of all ages to being the center of extreme dislike by those who are sticklers for a faithful adaptation. But the truth is, a movie can’t fit the entire two hour or so plot of a musical into its allotted time frame. Film audiences are completely different than theatre audiences in terms of want they want out of their respective medium and the gratification they get from watching it. While we’re on that subject, let me say now that this is a theatre blog, not a film blog. I don’t claim to be incredibly knowledgeable on the craft of film. So let’s dive into some contemporary movie musicals and how they are adapted from their source material.
Les Misérables (2012)
This beloved musical originating from the West End was already adapted from Victor Hugo’s classic novel of the same name, so the 2012 film adaptation had quite a lot to live up to. Despite the story’s sprawling history, this adaptation, featuring acclaimed actors like Hugh Jackman (Jean ValJean) and Anne Hathaway (Fantine), went over well relatively well with fans and critics alike. The film contains almost every song from the stage production, save for some lyric changes and shorted songs here and there. Director Tom Hooper was commended for his decision to let the cast sing live on set, instead of lip syncing and recording over the take later. This allowed for more emotional and real moments that the audience could connect to. And these efforts didn’t go unnoticed by the Academy, either. The film was nominated for eight Oscar awards in 2013 and ended up taking home four. Musical or not, this goes to show the true testament of Les Misérables‘s cathartic take on hope and the human spirit.
First premiering Off Broadway in 1996, Rent was a musical that changed the game. It is credited for making the pop/rock style musical popular, a sub genre that is certainly no shortage of in musical theatre today. It was provocative enough for people to pay attention to it and its subject matter that dealt with LGBT characters, drugs abuse, and AIDS/HIV. The 2005 film adaptation was able to satiate its legions of fans by bring back almost the entire original Broadway cast to play their same roles. Despite quite a few songs being cut or shortened – such as “Goodbye Love” and “Halloween” – long time “Rentheads” still keep coming back to this one.
The Last Five Years (2015)
Based on his personal life, Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Yearschronicles five years of the relationship of a young couple: Cathy (played by Anna Kendrick in the film), an aspiring actress, and Jamie (Jeremy Jordan), an aspiring writer. In the musical, Cathy’s songs start from the end of her and Jamie’s relationship, and Jamie’s songs are vice versa, allowing for a brief moment in the middle where the two’s respective paths truly cross. This interesting way of storytelling was kept intact for the 2015 film adapation, and it definitely adds another layer of depth to the interactions Cathy and Jamie have. With gorgeous shots and costumes, I’d say this movie musical adaptation is worth a watch.
What are your thoughts on movie musicals? Was there anything I missed? Let me know if I should do a part two on movie musicals in the comments!
The past few weeks in our country have been incredibly emotionally charged with hate, fear, and strife. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. No matter how you feel about our new President, I think we can all agree that there’s a huge divide in the population. It’s going to take a lot of time to make sense of it, and a lot of work on behalf of everyone to mend it. But one place where the reality of this new administration has hit the hardest is the theatre community. Many members of the community, including composer Ryan Scott Oliver and book writer Nessie Nankivell, have taken their feelings during this tumultuous time and made it into art.
Oliver and Nanikvell’s most recent endeavor, Otherbody: A Brief Musical Allegory, is a direct response to the political and social climate in 2017 America. Released only on iTunes and Spotify in early January, the 20-minute recording features Nicholas Christoper as mysterious main character known only as “The Teller”. The Teller, a young black gay man – who has never seen his own face, heard his own voice, or seen daylight – ventures out into the world after the death of his “Goodtree” in the forest. He discovers an alluring party in a village full of “pale ones”, where he quickly witnesses the most horrifying parts of humanity as he is beaten and ridiculed for simply not conforming to societal standards the rest of the pale ones, although being exactly the same on the inside.
Returning from the traumatic experience in the village, The Teller contemplates his journey and concludes that despite what society has told him and all the hate he has seen, sometimes “woods have to burn to make a path for what’s new”. Meanwhile an “angry demon” sets the pale ones’ village on fire as The Teller convinces the listener to work to restore the forest to its true former glory, with the Goodtree and all.
Loosely suggested by H.P. Lovecraft’s short story The Outsider, the genius of the allegory in Otherbody, comes in Oliver’s cleverly crafted lyrics that are relatively open to interpretation. The score will take at least a second listen to pick up on all the symbolism that The Teller’s story provides to make sense of the recent political rhetoric. Commenting on the racism, homophobia, and fear mongering that has occurred since the campaign trail, songs like “The Gayest Revelry” are filled with emotions that are all to familiar to those who are affected by such issues. The final song, “Roots Dig Deep” is a heartfelt and hopeful ballad that showcases the pain of accepting the evils in life and vowing to speak out against it, even if starts with one person.
At first, a dismal yet honest outlook on the nation’s unprecedented social and political situation, Otherbody is a gorgeously written allegory that leaves the listener with a cathartic release of feeling and a better sense of direction regarding what to do next in a time of discrimination and fear. But arguably most importantly, it’s a reminder to us all that there is still good left, and we can make it flourish – just as otherbodies have done time and time again throughout history.
Otherbody: A Brief Musical Allegory is available to stream on Spotify and for purchase on iTunes. For more info, visit otherbodymusical.com.
In the aftermath a weekend full of non-stop Instagram posts, Snapchat stories, and hundreds of tweets, I’m going to try to do the impossible – create a guide to help you to survive BroadwayCon when you can’t make it.
Whatever the reason, not being able to be at BroadwayCon for even a few hours is absolutely crushing to a die-hard theatre fan. The second annual three-day convention for theatre lovers just concluded on Sunday, and I bet your social media feeds are still flooded with pictures and videos of anything from panels to amazing cosplays posted by those lucky enough to actually be there in person. So, what can be done to alleviate the extreme fear-of-missing-out you get when you scroll through all your social media? In all honesty, none of these methods will come close to actually experiencing BroadwayCon yourself, but hopefully they will raise your spirits.
Get caught up
This first one may seem counter intuitive, but if you’re really bummed out about not being able to see a certain panel or actor live, check around the BroadwayCon social media and on YouTube to try and find a complete recording of what you’re looking for. Plus, scrolling through the official social media can help you get a better handle on everything that happened at BroadwayCon. Despite not being there physically, you can still stay up to date!
One of the many joys of BroadwayCon is being around other like-minded people, from rambling on and on about Dear Evan Hansen, to meeting fellow Hamilton fans at the sing-along. If you truly want to replicate that feeling, invite some of your theatre loving friends over! You can see a show, sing along to your favorite cast albums or watch your favorite movie musicals. Hit up the online Playbill Store to snag some awesome Broadway merch. Or just see La La Land again. The best part about this is one is that there’s no set schedule to follow, and no crowds! You can decide whatever Broadway-related activities you want to participate in, at any time you want. If your friends aren’t available, worry not! You can still do all of these things by yourself. Dance like nobody’s watching.
If you live a long ways away from NYC, there are some cost friendly alternatives to BroadwayCon. Many states have a theatre festival for high school students, as well as student rush tickets at theatres in large cities. Some places, including Chicago, have an entire week dedicated to local theatre. Or perhaps reading is more your thing? Head to your local bookstore and look around their drama section! From Shakespeare to librettos, songbooks, and good old monologue books, you’re sure to find something.
There’s always next year
When the feeling of missing out on an event as huge for the theatre community is just too great, it’s time to start looking into to next year’s BroadwayCon. If it’s a goal of yours to make the pilgrimage in 2018, start saving up now and keep an eye out in the coming months for announcements on panels and guests so you can plan ahead to make your BroadwayCon experience as smooth and stress-free as possible.
This year’s BroadwayCon fell during a time of unprecedented amount of political strife in our country. During times like this, it’s important to be able to escape all that – even for just a little while – no matter where you live. The theatre community has always been a place of light and hope for everyone and anyone who wishes to be apart of it. BroadwayCon reminds us all that we’re not alone – even if you couldn’t be there yourself to see it. If you feel like you missed out this year, I hope some of these solutions helped you out. But of course, next year’s BroadwayCon awaits…