As an acting and audition coach I often get asked to recommend audition songs for musical theatre auditions and for both drama school showcases and auditions.
I am not a musical theatre actor, I am not a singing teacher, but I do know how to work with actors and bring the best out of them in a speech, and I really believe that as an actor auditioning for musical theatre your choice of song should come from an ‘acting choice’ first and a ‘singing choice’ second.
The songs I choose for these lists are based on recommendations from musical directors, musical theatre actors and from my own lists of audition songs which work for actors.
Firstly look for a song which tells a story and which really allows you to develop a character and therefore act the hell out of the song!
I always think it is best to work on the song as a speech first. Look into the backstory of the character and who they are singing to, sometimes another character, often themselves – never the panel! Think about what has just happened before they sing and what is their desired outcome once they have sung the song.
Once you have ‘self-directed’ the song and worked on the acting side of it, then work with a singing teacher or vocal coach on the singing of the piece. Never lose sight of the fact that this is an acting audition as well as a chance to show off your vocal ability. I always recommend you try and find a Musical Director to work with as they will appreciate your ‘acting approach’ a lot more than a classical singing teacher.
More of the best audition songs
Are you looking for a musical theatre audition song? Take a look at the video by clicking the song title and listen to the song. If you like it then you must try and read the script or watch the show, to get an understanding of the character. Approaching the song as an acting exercise concentrates you on character and story and will actually make the singing of the song easier.
Click on title to view the video
Click on image to buy from Amazon
Click on title to view the video
Click on image to buy from Amazon
Honk! is a musical adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story The Ugly Duckling, incorporating a message of tolerance. The book and lyrics are by Anthony Drewe and music is by George Stiles.Ugly, the Ugly Duckling, has been seperated from his family and is learning who he is out on his own in the big bad world. He has met Penny a swan, who reconsing Ugly as a swan has asked him to fly away with her. As she flies away Ugly realises he is in love with her and sings ‘Now That I’ve Seen You’It is a great song, really sweet and perfect for a character actor who has a great voice. It is high energy and shows off both acting and singing skills.
“Moon River” was composed by Henry Mancini with lyrics written by Johnny Mercer for the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It received an Academy Award for Best Original Song for its first performance by Audrey Hepburn.The song was written to fit Audrey Hepburn’s vocal range, and appears in the movie when Fred discovers Holly Golightly singing it accompnaied by her guitar on her fire escape.There are lots of interpretations of the meaning of the song. Is it symbolism for a special person or talking about overcoming obstacles or it could be about going out in style when you die? Whatever it is, it is a very simple, sweet and beautiful song and works really well for an actress with a more limited vocal range.When done well this song has exquisite simplicity and works wonders with the right voice and great, simple acting.
“Old Man” is a song written and performed by Neil Young on his 1972 album Harvest.The song compares a young man’s life to an old man’s and shows that the young man has, to some extent, the same needs as the old one.The song can be sung by both a woman and a man. It really is a beautiful song absolutely full of heart and emotion.Play it as an actor, get your teeth into the reality of it, cast the old man who is he, what is his relationship to you? Sing your heart out.
The Glorious Ones is a musical by Flaherty and Ahrens set in 17th Century Italy and concerning a theatre troupe in the world of commedia dell’arte. It is based on the book by Francine Prose.The musical is a mixture or slapstick and serious, and tells the story of commedia dell’arte and how its bawdy comedy captured the publics adoration. The Glorious Ones has been called smutty, nutty, sentimental and moving.This song is sung by Isabella, an aristocratic young woman who joins the troupe and falls in love with group’s protégé, Francesco. This really is an incredible song for a soprano, it is a beautiful story song up there with Meadowlark and talks of creativity and creation so is perfect for an actress audition song.
The Freshman Experiment, or Fresh X as it is also known, is described online as ‘a musical created on the internet by the award-winning writing team Kerrigan and Lowdermilk based on the lives of two young bloggers as they share the story of their freshman years of college.’It is a ‘living musical’ as it was written based on blog posts and experiences as they were happening to the young bloggers who had agreed to write with candour about their freshman years at college.If you are after a song with a remarkable story which you can just sing your heart out with then this is the song for you. The song is full of heart and the emotions of returning back to your family home after you have been away and experienced adult-life is one which makes it perfect for drama school auditions.
Brooklyn the Musical is a musical with a book, lyrics, and music by Mark Schoenfeld and Barri McPherson. Using a play within a play, Brooklyn focuses on a group of five homeless musicians known as the City Weeds.They perform a play about a Parisian singer named Brooklyn. Orphaned when her mother Faith hangs herself, the girl is sent to live in a convent where she discovers her vocal talents, becomes a star, performs at Carnegie Hall, sets out in search of her father (who she discovers is a drug-addicted Vietnam War vet), and engages in a competition with local diva Paradice at Madison Square Garden! Just your average story then!?Heart Behind These Hands is terrific for a singer with a sultry silky sound, who can riff and play with this smooth and sensuous song then they will be able to really fly with this one!
Charlie Girl is a musical comedy which premiered in the West End in December 1965 and became one of the most successful theatre shows of the day.Lady Hadwell, the widow of an aristocrat, is struggling to make ends meet, the youngest of her three daughters, Charlotte, known as “Charlie”, is a tomboy. Their loyal assistant, Joe, is in love with Charlie. Joe wins a fortune on the football pools but conceals this fact from his employers. In the meantime, her mother is hoping for an engagement between Charlie and an American millionaire Jack.Like Love is sung in Act Two by Charlie after she has kissed millionaire Jack, who she thinks she has been in love with from Act One, but hasn’t felt any bells ring!The show is a modern day Cinderella, but this time Cinders doesn’t really love her Prince Charming. The song is spirited, fun, tells a story and gives you penty of time to showcase your vocal skills.
“Hold It Against Me” is a song by American recording artist Britney Spears, released as the first single from her seventh studio album, Femme Fatale.It is always a risk taking a ‘pop song’ and making it your own for an audition, but sometimes it really works and this is one of those songs which lends itself to a musical theatre audition.Make it your own, work on it so it doesn’t sound like the Britney version – just like the video version here when you click the title. This song can really show off your vocal range.
Be bold, daring and creative and you can’t go wrong.
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