We recently spoke to musical theatre composer Jason Carr to find out what he recommends as audition numbers for anyone having to show off their talent at an audition or showcase.
Jason is well known to London audiences as a twice Tony-nominated orchestrator and accompanist to singers from Maria Friedman to Dame Felicity Lott.
Jason Carr is a musical director, orchestrator and a composer. He is much in demand as a composer of incidental music both in the West End and on Broadway – Favourites include four by Tennessee Williams – The Glass Menagerie directed by Sam Mendes at the Donmar, Suddenly, Last Summer directed by Sean Mathias at the Comedy, Camino Real RSC Swan and Vieux Carre both directed by Steven Pimlott
After attending the Guildhall School of Music and Drama Jason won the 1988 Vivian Ellis prize for young writers of musicals and was invited by Sir Peter Hall to compose the musical Born Again based on the absurd play Rhinoceros by Ionesco which played at the Chichester Festival with Mandy Patinkin and Jose Ferrer.
Jason was the associate composer for the Chichester Festival Theatre in that time he composed incidental music for six plays, hosted a sell out series of late night cabarets and staged two of his own musicals The Water Babies with a book by Gary Yershon and a specially commissioned chamber musical Six Pictures of Lee Miller with a book by Edward Kemp and starring Anna Francolini.
A CD of Jason Carr songs Listen Up! was released in 2004 and features 20 songs sung by an all star cast.
Audition Songs Picked by Composer Jason Carr
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“I’m always in favour of actors having a ‘legit’ Broadway song to find out whether they have musical line or not, whether their vibrato is under control, as well as whether they can make the lyric sound new-minted in a framework where too much rubato (pulling the rhythms around) would be stylistically inappropriate.” Jason CarrWest Side Story is an American musical from 1957. The music is by Bernstein with words by Sondheim. It is based on Shakespeare’s of Romeo and Juliet but set in 20th-century New York against a background of racial gang warfare.‘Something’s Coming’ is taken from Act I and is Tony’s first solo. At this point he has not met Maria. He has become disillusioned with gang warfare and looks forward to a better future. He wants to leave the Jets.The song doesn’t follow a standard song structure such as verse and chorus. Instead it is held together by three ideas or themes which are heard throughout the song and presented in different ways.“With a click, with a shock,
Phone’ll jingle, door’ll knock,
Open the latch!
Something’s coming, don’t know when, but it’s soon;
Catch the moon,
“Sondheim songs are always helpful, as are songs by Bernstein, Weill etc. I particularly ask singers not to bring Les Mis or other shows which require the ‘modern west end sound’ – I don’t want to hear a lot of scooping between notes, or generalised emoting.You probably do want to know that there’ll be an accompanist who hopefully knows the repertoire and/or is a good, classically-trained, sight-reader. If the show you’re auditioning for has a score like this, you should be fine – but don’t be afraid to ask the casting director!” Jason CarrAnyone 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!”
The Lido Champs-Elysees, the most famous cabaret on the Champs-Élysées, embarked on it’s first international tour in 1998. The music was composed, arranged and conducted by Jason Carr.One of the songs written for the show was the beautiful love song ‘Natalie’ which is sung by MIchael Ball on Jason’s CD ‘Listen Up’“Natalie the midday sun gives out no heat,
the midday sun cannot compete
with what I feel in your embraceAnd every night when we’re together
You and I
I close my eyes and hold you tight
Now and forever
You and I”
“I’m always in favour of actors having a ‘legit’ Broadway song to find out whether they have musical line or not, whether their vibrato is under control, as well as whether they can make the lyric sound new-minted in a framework where too much rubato (pulling the rhythms around) would be stylistically inappropriate.” Jason CarrCarousel is a slightly morbid tale but is still one of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s most beautiful scores. It tells the story of Billy Bigelow a fairground barker who turns to crime and eventually suicide and then returns to earth as a ghost (I promise I am not making this up!)‘Mister Snow’ is sung in Act One by Carrie Pipperidge, the simple-minded, sensible and loyal best friend of the leading lady Julie Jordan. She sings of her beau, a fisherman called Enoch Snow whom she has recently beocme engaged to.The song is really funny and lovely too, great if you are auditioning to play a wide-eyed innocent girl in old school musicals!“The first time he kissed me the whiff from his clothes
Knocked me flat on the floor of the room.
But now that I love him, my heart’s in my nose
And fish is my fav’rite perfume!”
“Sondheim songs are always helpful, as are songs by Bernstein, Weill etc. I particularly ask singers not to bring Les Mis or other shows which require the ‘modern west end sound’ – I don’t want to hear a lot of scooping between notes, or generalised emoting.You probably do want to know that there’ll be an accompanist who hopefully knows the repertoire and/or is a good, classically-trained, sight-reader. If the show you’re auditioning for has a score like this, you should be fine – but don’t be afraid to ask the casting director!” Jason CarrRoad Show is a Stephen Sondheim musical which was previously called Bounce, it was workshopped in 1999 and opened in 2003 and a revised version opened 2008.It tells the story of the Mizner brother’s , Addison and Wilson, and their adventures across America at the turn of the 20th century.Addison has left behind is gabling, swindling brother Wilson and is heading to Florida to take advantage of the property boom there in the early 1920s. On the train he meets Hollis Bessemer who he falls in love with.Hollis has been cut off from his family for persuing his love of art, he hasn’t the talent to become an artist but is heading to Florida to create an artist’s colony on Palm Beach with his aunt. This is the told via the song Talent.Any Sondheim song at an audition is always a brave choice, but this is from his most recent show which was not a success and is so probably not done as often as the other classics.It is a great song for auditioning as it is about love for art and is a lovely ‘story song’ which will show off your acting and singing.
The wonderful show She Loves Me about shop employees Georg and Amalia who, despite being consistently at odds with each other at work, are unaware that each is the other’s secret pen pal met through lonely-hearts ads.Tonight At Eight is sung by Georg on the morning of his first date with his ‘dear friend’.The song is a lovely patter song which is full of character and the tune follows the normal vocal pattern of the words which makes it easy for an actor who thinks they can’t sing. The song is fast and your ‘nerves’ will actually add to the nervous energy and character of Georg. A total joy to perform.
“Nigel Richards sings ‘Death in the Clouds’ on his CD ‘A Shining Truth’ and this might be a good, dramatic song for an accomplished high baritone wanting to show his acting chops.” Jason CarrMuse, model, surrealist and war photographer, Lee Miller witnessed at first hand the best and worst of the twentieth century. Man Ray was her lover; Picasso her friend; she danced with Chaplin and bathed in Hitler’s bath tub.The show played at the Chichester Festival in 2005 and Michael Billington in the Guardian said: Carr’s score has a darting, feverish urgency that reminded me of Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George.‘Death in the Clouds’ is sung by Lee’s lover the photojournalist David Scherman during World War Two and in this song he tells her about photographing bombing raids.Please note to hear the song use the link below, the Youtube link is not of Nigel singing Death In The Clouds
We would love to know what your favourite audition song from a new musical is, let us know via Twitter @actorhub.
Musical Theatre Actor Hub Advice