Let’s face it, the reason The Voice, X Factor and Australia’s Got Talent continue to grace our television screens, year after year, isn’t solely for the talented performers from across the country that find themselves in front of a judging panel but is instead, in often a much larger part, due to the fact that we as an audience are gluttons for awkward, cringe-worthy auditions. Perhaps as a theatre community, we can relate all the more. Whether you have provided musical accompaniment, sat on an audition panel or performed in front of one, with nerves racing and hope on the line, the potential for something, anything, to go suddenly sour is sensationally high. Sometimes, it is when we are striving for the best outcome that we are most prone to becoming our own worst enemies. Luckily for Stacey-Louise Camilleri and Stephen McMahon’s new cabaret, (aptly titled, Auditions: A Cabaret), the uncomfortable, frustrating, nerve-racking and high-stakes nature of the humble audition room often bears some of the most hilarious results.
A work of intense passion and patience, Camilleri describes Auditions as ‘a lesson in what not to do in an audition’. Having spent the better half of 10 years playing countless auditions all over Victoria, the pair see this as their opportunity to give audiences an insight into the goings-on behind the audition room door and as a result, experience the hilarity that often ensues. Audiences are ensured that the audition process is not like what they may be familiar with from watching shows like Idol, where the judges are nasty or auditionees front up intending to create a stir. Instead, in Camilleri’s experience, most people that step in to an audition room will do so with the best of intentions, but unknowingly, particularly in terms of etiquette ‘they just get it terribly wrong’. Imagine reading lyrics over your accompanist’s shoulder for the entirety of a song. What about clicking them ‘in time’ or highlighting your music to the point of illegibility? They’ve certainly seen it all. And more.
Avid cabaret-goers might be familiar with the show’s concept, with Camilleri premiering the piece at Broadway Unplugged in 2015 as a 10 minute spot and then again at Short and Sweet where she performed a revised 15 minute version. She cites ‘workshopping’ as the most vital component of the writing process, noting the importance of considering the audience’s taste. ‘[For this 50 minute iteration] we used the previous shows to judge what worked and what didn’t. What didn’t work ended up being bits that were too music theatre, where you’d have to know the show to understand it…we tried to write it so that it will be funny to people that know nothing about theatre as well,’ Camilleri confirmed. ‘We’ve structured it so that people are able to better recognise themselves in the stories we tell’.
For those that have auditioned with either of the duo tinkling the ivories for them before, fear not, there won’t be any naming and shaming. Particular care has gone into ensuring that the show reflects a combination of anecdotes that present some of the more hilarious common practices of auditionees that are more ‘jovial’ than ‘attacky’. In fact it really serves as a fun, cautionary tale with the inevitable moral for all those with stars in their eyes to take care to ‘not do this next time… or ever’.
As a sign of solidarity, Camilleri confirms that her very own cringe-worthy audition stories have made the cut. ‘It was terrible’ she laments. ‘I don’t want to give it away, but one was in high school where I chose a really inappropriate song for my age and for the show. That’s in there’.
Having certainly worked to make their theatrical mark since those high school days, the pair are incredibly proud of the Melbourne Cabaret scene and are particularly excited about their collaboration with The Butterfly Club, whose commitment to supporting Melbourne performers continues to strengthen. As Camilleri attests ‘[The scene] is great, it’s thriving. The Butterfly Club makes it so easy to put a show on. They have such a great team, it’s not intimidating’.
While both Stacey-Louise Camilleri and Stephen McMahon have supported many performers over the years from behind the music, as wannabe thespians attempt to follow their showbiz dreams, Auditions: A Cabaret offers the Melbourne theatregoing public not only an opportunity to revel in the sometimes outrageous happenings before the cast list goes up, but more importantly, an opportunity to support the tireless work of some of Victoria’s most revered audition accompanists in return.