Top Sondheim Songs for Musical Theatre Auditions – UpTempo

Top Sondheim Songs for Musical Theatre Auditions - UpTempo_550
Photo Credit: Sarah Sierszyn via cc
When it comes to singing Sondheim songs for auditions ‘Everybody Says Don’t’ …… ‘Well, I say Do!’
Sometimes you have to. If a song speaks directly to you and you know you could do it justice and deliver it in your own unique way, then why not give it a go.
Make sure that you have clear and simple sheet music for the accompanist to follow, if at all possible work with a musician before and see if they can make the music simpler. One of the reasons everybody avoids Sondheim for auditions is that the music is sometimes so damn hard to play that your accompanist might be having to keep up with you or could make mistakes which could throw you. Make it as easy as possible for them.
With Sondheim’s work it is vital you choose a song which speaks to you, you need to fully understand it and the character who is singing it because Sondheim really demands that you act the hell out of a song. These are songs which need to be performed in a context to fully do them justice.
Sondheim Songs for Auditions – Uptempo
If you are choosing an uptempo Sondheim song for an audition then remember that you really don’t pick a Sondheim song to show that you are a great singer, you are choosing it to show that you are a great musical theatre actor.

Most of his songs are not built around a ‘money-note’. The UpTempo songs tend to be quick and speedy and you will need to do a really good vocal warm-up first to literally get your mouth around the lyrics.

I always recommend you approach a Sondheim song as a monologue first. Learn it as you would a speech – act it first!

Get inside the character and situation and work on it as a speech before you approach the singing of it. I promise you that this process will helps hugely when you begin putting the words, and feelings, to music.

Choose a song which reflects the character you are auditioning. With Sondheim songs the character is ALL important and the acting of it will shine through. We would love to know what your favourite Sondheim UpTempo song for a casting or audition is, let us know via Twitter@actorhub.

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  • Saturday Night was Sondheim’s first musical which was written in 1954 but was never produced until 1997 due to an unfortunate set of events!
    Set in 1929 in Brooklyn a group of friends spend their Saturday Nights restless because they have no dates. Gene, who works in Wall Street in a menial job dreams of escaping Brooklyn and becoming a member of the exciting Manhattan society.
    This song comes at the very end of the show as the various characters look forward to the future, they have realised they are happy with the life they have in Brooklyn and look towards the future.
    Saturday Night ends and the characters finally are looking forward to what tomorrow will bring.
  • ‘Everybody Ought To Have A Maid’ is such a funny song, full of all of the wonderful double-entendre’s and saucy, naughty fun which makes Funny thing Happened probably one of Sondheim’s most non-stop funny shows!
    This song is simple, hilarious, completely infectious and really clever but totally uncomplicated. In my mind it is one of Broadway’s most perfect songs.
  • That’ll Show Him is from the Stephen Sondheim show A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum
    A rare thing in most soprano songs … this is funny, very funny!
    Sung by Philia, the virginal love interest in this farce. She promises Hero, her true love, that even though she has to marry someone else she will always love him. The song is her reassurance to him that when she makes love to Miles (her new husband) she will be thinking of Hero, when she makes love to him she will actually be making love to Hero …, so she’ll make love even more intensely!
    Lots of room for comedy, timing and character play in this song. A lovely choice.
  • Warren Beatty’s 1990 movie Dick Tracy, probably became more famous because of the presence of Madonna in it than anything else. It is worth revisiting, it is a quirky beautiful movie and has some great Sondheim songs throughout.
    Live Alone and Like It is sung by the character of Breathless Mahoney (Madonna) and is used a background music during the film.
    The song is a celebration of the single life and works sung by both female and male voices. You can build in a backstory to this song and either sing it as a carefree ‘I’m happy with this single life’ attitude –
    Or you could sing it more uncertain style, like the singer is trying to persuade himself that he is happy with the single life (just like in this video!)
  • Anyone Can Whistle is set in an imaginary town which has gone bankrupt. The only place which is doing well is the local sanatorium, known as ‘The Cookie Jar’.
    The town’s council, in the hope of the tourist dollars it will bring to the town, declare a rock with a spring of water coming from it to be a holy miracle – capable of curing the ill. Fay Apple, a young sceptical nurse doesn’t believe in miracles and has brought all 49 of her inmates from the Cookie Jar to the spring to see its holy powers for herself.
    The inmates escape and Fay goes into hiding and hopes for a miracle herself, a hero who will deliver the town from its madness.
    “Those smug little men with their smug little schemes They forgot one thing: The play isn’t over by a long shot yet!”
  • A theatre is closing and a reunion is held to honor the Follies shows that once performed there. All of the showgirls return to the theatre where they had once performed as young woman.
    The show focuses on two couples, Buddy & Sally and Ben & Phyliss. Both couples are very unhappy in their marriages. At the end of the show the confusions, anger and madness become too much and a fantasy ‘Loveland’ sequence happens and we get to see the real and emotional lives of the couples in a kind of musical breakdown!
    Buddy, a travelling salesman, has been having an affair on the road. His ‘Loveland’ song is ‘Buddys Blues’ performed in a vaudevillian style with an imaginary Sally and his girlfriend Margie. It is a real comic tour-de-force but also needs the real and emotional breakdown which makes the soul of the song so heartfelt.
  • One of Sondheim’s few flops ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ has recently been revived to great acclaim thanks to the wonderful Menier Chocolate Factory. The story of the show is told backwards which might be why it originally flopped.
    This song is sung near the beginning of the show, so it comes at the end of the story!?!
    Mary an alcoholic theatre critic meets her old friend’s Charley and Frank at a tv studio where they will be giving an interview.
    The song is a wonderful piece of theatre, and really sums up how it feels when you bump into one of your ‘old friends’.
    “But us old friend what’s to discuss old friend? Here’s to us, Who’s like us? Damn few.”
  • Anyone Can Whistle is set in an imaginary town which has gone bankrupt. The only place which is doing well is the local sanitorium, known as ‘The Cookie Jar’.
    This song comes at the end of Act Two, the ‘Cookies’ have escaped and are hiding amongst the townspeople, but no one can tell who is mad and who is sane. Fay Apple a young nurse with the help of Hapgood, one of the Cookies, decide to tear up the inmates records and let them be free.
    The song is sung by Hapgood as the freed ‘Cookies’ dance. It is a delightful song full of careless optimism, Hapgood is an ‘idealist’ and this delight for life and opportunity shines through in this song.
  • During the first act of Into The Woods each of the fairytale characters learns their lesson and sings a song to show the moral of their story.
    The first of these is Red Riding Hood who sings ‘I Know Things Now’ to explain her story and what she has learnt from her experiences with Granny and the Wolf!
    A perfect little story song, completely self contained with a beginning, middle and end.
    “I had been so careful, I never had cared. And he made me feel excited- Well, excited and scared.”
  • Saturday Night was Sondheim’s first musical which was written in 1954 but was never produced until 1997 due to an unfortunate set of events!
    Set in 1929 in Brooklyn a group of friends spend their Saturday Nights restless because they have no dates. Gene, who works in Wall Street in a menial job dreams of escaping Brooklyn and becoming a member of the exciting Manhattan society.
    The group have decided to head out for a Saturday Night and Gene has arrived in elegant clothes which has impressed everyone. He tells them how his smart clothes will be the ticket to the beautiful world and people of Park Avenue!
    This is a terrific mid tempo number is charming and a great opportunity for a singer to be cheeky, fun and likeable.
  • Knowing your history of musical theatre is really important as a performer. Here is a brief look at the life and works of Stephen Sondheim, along with our favourite Sondheim songs to read about and listen to.
  • Choosing a favourite Sondheim song is difficult, it all depends on my mood! Here is a selection of my favourites along with videos of the songs in performance.
  • Singing Sondheim is never recommended for auditions, but if the song really speaks to you and you think you can put your own spin on it then break that ‘rule’ and give it a go. Here are our favourite Sondheim ballads.