Having recently cast yet another show, it got me thinking a lot about the ‘And’ Factor in auditions.
My private students hear me rave on about the ‘And’ Factor all the time when I'm preparing them for various auditions, and now I think it's time that I share this tip with the plethora of auditionees that I've sat and listened to over the years who could really do with a bit of…well….’And’.
So you've just landed yourself an audition, it's one of your favourite shows and you want that part so badly that you're willing to throw other auditionees down the stairs on your way up to the panel.
Rookie Error #1: Vocal Selections from Rent, Wicked or Dreamgirls.
In the last panel I sat on, I had at least 8 girls walk in with "Take Me or Leave Me". Now, the fact that I'm not a huge Rent fan aside (I actually am a bit of a fan of that song surprisingly), it's a bad choice. Why? Well for one, the audition was for Hairspray and a big sassy song about being an insatiable lesbian wasn't a great topical match.
Secondly, I have never heard a version in an audition of “Take Me or Leave Me” that wasn't Idina Menzel's. When I'm on a casting panel for a show, I want to see what you can bring to the table. Not how wonderful your impersonations of your favourite cast recording are.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, of the 1,056 times I have heard “Take Me or Leave Me”, “No Good Deed”, “So Much Better” (Blonde), “And I Am Telling You” and “Love You I Do” in auditions, maybe only 3% of the girls that brought them in could actually sing them. There is such a thing as being too ambitious. There is a common misconception that in order to get anywhere beyond the ensemble of any show, you need to showcase that you can (or at least can attempt to) sing a top G. This brings me to….
Rookie Error #2: Check out my amazing top notes
You'll be amazed to know that it's in fact NOT all about your belt register. Yes, we like to see your range; 'your' being the operative word.
The last time a girl walked in with a belt-fest-soul-mamma number into an audition I asked her "Can you sing this? As in can you REALLY sing this?" She said yes, and then proceeded straight into struggle-town.
If you can't sing Dreamgirls, don't bring it in. I have been BLOWN AWAY by people who've brought in songs like “I Cannot Hear the City” (The Sweet Smell of Success), “You Don't Have to Say You Love Me”, “Nice” (Lucky Stiff) and “Bill” (Show Boat). None of those songs are belt-fests, but they still worked. Why? Because those people showed of their own range. If your power is in your lower-mid register, show it off.
Never, EVER feel pressured by that person that always goes before you in an audition, and belts the roof off the building (this ALWAYS happens doesn't it?). You're not in the room; you don't know what else is going on in there. On top of that, it doesn't matter whether they do an amazing job or not. 99% of the time, you're nerves will convince you that they are the second coming of Whitney. Try not to pay attention and just focus on your own audition preparations.
"But what if I do have an amazingly high belt register and I've picked the most AMAZING song?"
Well, this is what brings me to….
The ‘And’ Factor
Over the years I've heard many, MANY guys and girls with big, strong voices. Before I go on, let me set up a scenario:
You've just held auditions. 30 girls have all come in and proven they can all sing the part. On a surface-level of talent you can't split them. This is where the 'And' Factor comes in.
The "And" Factor is what splits a 'good' performance from a 'wow' performance.
There is a really big difference between 'singing' a song, and 'performing' a song. TEXT is your best friend. If you pick a song 5 seconds before you walk into an audition, with no idea what show it's from or what it's about and someone walks in straight after you with the same song, you're in trouble.
There is nothing more wonderful than watching a performer/auditionee that really knows what their song is about; that connects with the text and gives us their own interpretation of it. To me, that's what it's about. It's not about the belt notes; it's not about the pretty frock. It's about CONNECTING to what you're singing about.
Let's go back to that scenario I just mentioned. Two people walk in one after the other with the same song (this happens a lot by the way). Both people can sing it fine. What sets them apart is the "And" Factor:
"He/She could sing…'And'…"
You've only got a 5 minute slot (if you're lucky) to show us that you're it. I want to see what else you can do other than 'just' sing.
"And" they made it their own, "And" I totally believed every word they sang, "And" They just…got it. They understood what they were singing. "And"….just doesn't sound like a real word anymore after reading it that many times…
"And" is what will set you apart from the ones who just walk in, sing, and walk out. Don't leave a panel thinking 'Yeah, he/she had a good voice, but so did….' Let your goal be 'He/She had a good voice ‘AND’…."