Audition Song Selection, What to Expect, Tips, and More!
20 Selections for Tenors: Choosing An Audition Song
Isn't auditioning weird? I mean, think about it. You walk into a brightly lit room where a gathering of strangers (or sometimes friends - which can be even worse) who are staring at you while you perform a song. On top of that, you deliver this song to an imaginary scene partner who you place in the sweet spot directly above the audition panel's while standing at the perfect distance away from the table so that you don't make the folks behind said table feel like they're a part of your scene. UGH!
So how do you make a good audition easier? Well for starters, you must love performing the tenor audition song you use. It goes without saying that you must have an excellent grasp of the lyrics and the story you are telling - but you must also feel good performing it. Your song should be like the perfect outfit - one that garners compliments, but also makes you feel good.
Often times we don't get to sing our own material. When we do get to sing something from our book, you better knock it out of the park. It is for that reason that I don't like trying out a new song at an audition. I have my book of material from which I will choose for just about everything. In the rare case that I need to do a new musical theatre song (and I don't mean material they've sent you from the show), I will do my best to sing it with my teacher or at least in front of someone in advance (whether it's a roommate, spouse, or a room full of strangers at a piano bar).
Finding those songs for your book that fit you like a glove can take a lot of time and practice. Enjoy the process and remember that sometimes a song might not work at this point in your life but ten years down the line, it could be the perfect song for an audition - and you will have already worked on it!
To get you started, here is a list of 20 tenor audition songs that I think are solid - be they for a Broadway musical or your local community theatre.
Not a Day Goes By
This ballad from MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG is simple and beautiful, but beyond that, the lyrics lend itself to many situations. Having an adaptable piece is great for your book so you can use it for multiple auditions. In MERRILY, Frank sings this to profess his love to his girlfriend Beth. Having a Sondheim piece in your book is a must. This is one that won't throw the accompanist while also showing off your acting chops.
There But For You Go I
I find the score of BRIGADOON to sublime and rich with audition material. While most men will be singing "Almost Like Being In Love," I find this ballad to be just as effective. Fiona confesses her love to Tommy and he responds with this song. Context aside, I think this song would be perfect for any audition that requires standard musical theater.
Take a Chance on Me
LITTLE WOMEN is chock-full of songs for women (clearly) but this song that Laurie sings to impress Jo is a keeper! This exciting uptempo hits the heights with a high B. The song straddles the fence between its contemporary sound but its classic context making it useful for many auditions.
It Only Takes a Taste
Sometimes a charm song is exactly what you need in an audition. This song from WAITRESS that Dr. Pomatter sings to Jenna as their relationship is just starting to cook (pun intended) is adorable and winning - a blue-ribbon combination for an audition.
You Walk with Me
By David Yazbek
Just about every song in THE FULL MONTY is a slam dunk for an audition. I'm partial to this sweeping ballad that Malcolm sings at his mother's funeral. Pro tip: find a positive intention to counteract the somber feeling of the context as well as the music.
The Wall in My Head
By Dan Gillespie and Tom MacRae
This song is from the hit West End show EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE. It's not made it across the pond yet which means it's probably not overdone in auditions (my apologies if you're reading this after it's Broadway transfer!). It can be hard to tell a story quickly in an audition and this terrific song has a great journey. It would be a perfect song for any pop musical - or just to sing in the shower, like me.
The short-lived musical BRIGHT STAR produced some terrific songs for auditions. Upon returning from WWII, Billy sings this song about acting on his ambitions. I love the positivity that this song exudes. Bonus: this song can work for contemporary musical theater as well as an audition that asks for country. I love a two-for-one!
Having a pop song in your book is imperative. I love this song by the Barenaked Ladies. The melody is beautiful and lyrics are intricate and unique. Spend some time on your story with this song and I think it could be a gem in your book.
I Met a Girl
The title of this boisterous song from BELLS ARE RINGING sums it up! The song encapsulates that infectious joy we get when falling for someone for the first time. This traditional musical theater song has been done a lot. I don't care! It's terrific!
Cross the Line
The joyful act one finale of the short-lived musical BIG is a perfect audition song. There are clear intentions and wants that will be great to play in an audition...and easily adaptable for different scenarios.
This uptempo pop song is about a man who is breaking up with someone because he knows there's someone better for him out there; however he's conflicted, as we all can be with love. Check it out!
When Words Fail
By Jeanine Tesori & David Lindsay Abaire
This song from SHREK perfectly sums up everyone's feelings about expressing love to someone. Shrek has finally decided to act upon his feelings for Fiona but doesn't know how. While it's a ballad, the quirky, funny lyrics give it an upbeat feel.
I'm Coming out of my Shell
By Robert Real and Willie Reale
A slow snail who is a mail carrier finally delivers his first letter in this peppy number from A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD. It is contemporary but has hints of vaudeville and old-school Broadway. It's got pizzazz and humor and will make the folks behind the table fall in love with you!
Usually within the first part of act one, we'll hear an "I want" song where our main character(s) tells us what they want. This song with its pulsing drive is a classic example from WEST SIDE STORY. This song will be no surprise to anyone behind the table, but when done well, it will certainly make an impression.
She's Got a Way
By Billy Joel
Billy Joel has quite a few tenor songs that are perfect for auditions and because he writes for the piano, you can pretty much guarantee solid accompaniment in the room. With so many jukebox shows these days, it's important to have a couple of pop songs in your book. Billy Joel's writing is so classic that it can happily fit in many different eras.
What More Can I Say?
By William Finn
A beautiful ballad from the show FALSETTOS. In the show, Marvin is singing this to his sleeping boyfriend Whizzer. The song has a beautiful melody. The lyrics are spot on about true love. Plus it has a hushed intensity that will make the room take note. Truly...what more can I say?!
What Do I Need with Love?
I love a song with a good conflict because it gives you something to play in the room! This bouncy piece from THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE is done quite a bit but for good reason - it's an awesome song!
On the Street Where You Live
This soaring ballad from MY FAIR LADY seems like it shouldn't be on this list. We all know about. We've all heard it. BUT...I think this song separates the men from the boys! If you sing this Golden Age song well, it will really make you stand out in any standard musical theater audition.
I'll Be There
This exciting power-ballad from THE PIRATE QUEEN is perfect for any contemporary/pop musical - think MISS SAIGON, LES MISERABLES, Wildhorn, or Webber. I personally think you could find a nice 32-bar cut of this that will knock their socks off.
By Cyndi Lauper
This song occurs in KINKY BOOTS when Charlie first figures out how to revitalize his shoe company. If you do a cut of it, be sure to end on the high note. This song has such great energy to it and hopefully is new enough that it's not over-done. Just be sure to end on that big note for maximize excitement!