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Student Blog: Finding the Perfect Song

Some tips and inspiration as you prepare for the new season of Next on Stage or your next audition

Student Blog: Finding the Perfect Song

The next season of BroadwayWorld's Next On Stage competition is coming up - a really exciting opportunity that you may be considering applying for. But soon you'll be facing the big question: what to sing?

Whether choosing material for this competition, an audition, or performance, finding the right song can feel as difficult as mastering the song itself. But choosing the right song-- finding one that you really love to sing and can personally connect with-- can make all the difference. As a fellow frequent-auditioner right there with you on the repertoire-building journey, I'm excited to pass on some of my favorite song-discovery strategies I've learned (and to share some song recommendations, TikTok style).

It doesn't take long in the world of musical theatre to find favorite songs and begin to identify dream roles - roles you see yourself in, that excite you, and that fit well in your voice. If I'm looking for material that fits me similarly well to those dream roles and songs (whether I'm worried that they are overdone or simply want to add more alternatives to my rep), I will take note of the actor who played/sang them, and begin to track what other roles they play. Soon, I begin to find performers who consistently play or played roles I would love to play as well.

You might be surprised at just what specific aspects of yourself you can find reflected in the careers of successful performers - there's no need to simply place yourself in the general stereotypical "ingenue" or "best friend" box and leave it there. For example, I feel most myself when I play smart, spunky, often funny ingenues or leading ladies, and I love singing bright legit soprano-- and not only are all those qualities reflected in my dream role of Amalia in She Loves Me, but actually in many of the roles Barbara Cook, the original Amalia, played. The result? I sing lots of Barbara Cook!

I connect with Lindsey Mendez' familiar fun, interesting characters and contemporary soprano sound. I want to tackle every compelling ingénue role Solea Pfieffer brings her rich soprano and belt sound to. For powerful, funny female characters, who frequently dance, I look to Sutton Foster's career. For grounded, fierce characters with depth, I look to the careers of Carolee Carmello or (if I want some quirkiness tossed in) Bernadette Peters. Identifying an inspiration (or a few) who plays the kind of roles you want to play can be an incredible starting point for YouTube rabbit holes into musical theatre repertoire.

Those songs you already love, that perhaps introduced you to an inspiration, can serve as a fantastic jumping-off point for new material (hence the wonderful TikTok genre of "if you like ___ , try singing ___"). So in the spirit of those TikToks, here are a few of my suggestions, based on my own experience and types of characters and stories that I am drawn to (with major credit to my teachers at Northwestern who have recognized what I connect with in a song and helped me find this rep).

If you're not a treble-voiced, spunky, quirky and/or nerdy belter and/or soprano like me, these specific songs might not be a perfect fit for you, but these same strategies of finding performers you see yourself in and taking material inspiration from their careers might still be valuable!

An important note: just because I place a song in the "if you like" category, does not mean it is horribly overdone and you should never use it-- in fact, I've been told by many a casting director and mentor that whether something is "overdone" or not is far less important than whether you can perform it brilliantly. I'm simply starting with some more generally known songs to perhaps help you discover some new ones!

If you like the joyful legit soprano silliness of "Mister Snow" or "Vanilla Ice Cream", try "I'll Show Him" or "This Is All Very New to Me" (both from an early Barbara Cook role in Plain and Fancy).

If you like "I'm Not Afraid of Anything" or "She Used to Be Mine", try "Come Home" from Chasing the Day or "Wait a Bit" from Just So for more dramatic contemporary belting.

If you love the fierce Sondheim drive of "Everybody Says Don't" (especially Barbra Streisand's iconic cover), try "Now You Know" from Merrily We Roll Along.

If you like the comedic patter of Company's "Not Getting Married Today" or "Model Behavior" from Women on the Verge, try "Crossword Puzzle" from Starting Here, Starting Now or "Two's Company" from The Magic Show.

If you love the Bernadette Peters brilliance of "Last Midnight" or "Sunday in the Park with George", try any of the material from her early breakout role of Mabel in Mack and Mabel ("Time Heals Everything", "Look What Happened to Mabel", "Wherever He Ain't")

If you love "Astonishing" from Little Women or "Live Out Loud" from A Little Princess, try "The Life I Never Led" from Sister Act for more optimistic, passionate, determined contemporary belting.

Of course, this is all just the tip of the iceberg of musical theatre repertoire rabbit holes. Best of luck as you choose material for Next On Stage or your next audition!

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