Ahh, the beauty of musical theatre. Musical theatre actors always have a step up on American Idol contestants because we can also dance. We also have a step up on So You Think You Can Dance? contestants because we can also sing. Most of the time we have a step up on both sets of contestants because we can also act! Man, we are talented.
But rarely, if ever, are we asked to do all three simultaneously in an audition. I mean, if we can belt an F the people behind the table usually assume that we can kick our faces too, right? But you know what they say about people that assume: It makes an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me'. Turns out that I was the only one portraying the role of the ass on this particular occasion.
I attended an audition this past spring for a job entitled "College Promo". Apparently, the musical theatre program at a local college was shooting a commercial to promote their program and wanted to hire professionals to appear in it. My agent told me that I needed to prepare 16-bars of a musical theatre song acapella, as there would no piano present at the audition. (A light bulb went off in my head that something was already a little fishy, but I kept listening) Next, prepare your own dance that you will perform to no music, a few counts of 8. (OK, now the light bulb has turned in to a strobe light) To top it off, the audition will be held at a comedy club.
Now, to an actively auditioning musical theatre actor in New York, this audition preparation would be considered strange, to say the least. But hey, beggars can't be choosers and mama needs a job, so I'm gonna pull out all the stops and wear my best young-and-hip-and-still-in-college-yet-could-double-as-my-In-The-Heights-audition outfit. I'm seeing...denim shorts.
I enter the comedy club lobby expecting to see dozens of audition hopefuls also sporting their chic college gear, but I am the only one. And I'm half an hour early due to my audition tardiness paranoia. The monitor tells me that I can go in early if I want, as there is no one waiting to go before me. Alright, let's do this thingy! I can rock this total lack of music audition!
He leads me in to the club, which I'm pretty sure is where Seinfeld filmed all of its opening comedy routine montages. It's a pitch-black room with a few round tables and chairs set up and a tiny stage with a single light beaming down upon it's worn wooden floor. A perfect setting for a COMEDY ROUTINE!
The auditor introduces himself and gives me my instructions:
- Slate yourself to the camera
- Perform your song
- Perform your dance
- Perform the combo
I'm sorry, what? Perform the combo? What exactly is the combo? I ask him, my eyes the size of tennis balls.
"Oh, perform your song and dance at the same time." Wow. That's a first. Too bad my dance includes two face kicks, a double pirouette, and a dolphin body wave. And I'm singing the last 16-bars of "Show Off" from The Drowsy Chaperone. And neither of them are the same length.
This is going to be horrific.
As I'm walking up to the microscopic stage, I already know that I am going to have to improvise my dance and attempt to make it the same length as my song. And oh yeah! Hold out a belted C for 11 bars while spinning.
I perform my first three tasks with as much calmness as possible given the anxiety I am anticipating for the 4th one. I take a moment to myself, facing upstage away from the camera to try and figure out what the hell I'm going to do. When I think I'm ready, I do a fierce drag to turn myself around and start the song, but all the words and steps have completely left me. I am so thrown off by their request that I can't even remember what I am doing! I sing the first few lyrics incorrectly and decide to stop myself and start over. The second time around I do sing the correct lyrics, but I can not think fast enough to choreograph more steps. I decide to just perform the same routine over and over again until the song ends, which is in a pile of twisted wreckage you typically see after a plane crash. I have no breath support for the final note and I'm pretty sure I stopped halfway through it and took a breath, amidst a sadly attempted pas de bourree.
The room is silent when I finish, aside from my panting with my arms fully extended above my head displaying jazz hands. I dismount the stage, thank the auditor, and leave the club. I have no idea what just happened. I think I just saw my whole life flash before my eyes and a bright light that I was tempted to follow. That audition was a near death experience. It was so sad that all I could do was exit laughing. I guess it was an appropriate reaction when exiting a comedy club, except that I was laughing for all the wrong reasons.