The Perfect Audition Book

I don't have one.  I'm not sure if I know anyone who has one.  I am repeatedly standing outside the audition room, flipping through my book, trying to figure out what to sing.  This is even more likely to happen when I've been given music to learn-- sometimes upwards of 25 pages.  When I get to the audition, I am told that before we get to any of that material, we'll be "singing from your book."  (Translation:  you may not even get to sing 5 pages of the 25 you've crammed.)  

Cynicism aside, the time for you to choose an audition song is not in the hallway outside the audition room.  It's also not when you find out you have the audition, and have to scramble to find something appropriate for, say, Gentlemen's Guide, while learning tons of tough material from the show.  So do your best to have an audition song from each of these categories.  Understandably, some of them will suit your voice better than others.  (Think about it.  Does Cynthia Erivo have an operetta piece?  Probably not.... then again, she just might.)  However, if you suit the show in other departments:  you dance well, you act the hell out of the sides, you fit the costume, whatever it is, then your vocal weaknesses might be overlooked if you can, frankly, fake it.  So fake it! Fake it till you make it.  

1.  Operatic aria or art song.  Should showcase technique and range.  Use to audition for shows such as:  Phantom of the Opera, Candide, Light in the Piazza

2.  Operetta/Gilbert & Sullivan.  Emphasis here is on technique, but also diction and a sense of humor.  Gentlemen's Guide to Love and Murder, Pirates of Penzance, Sweeney Todd

3.  Early Musical Comedy/Vaudeville Song.  Up-tempo that's catchy and shows your personality and sense of humor.  Showboat, Forum, Kiss Me Kate

4.  Standard Ballad and Uptempo, pre-1965.  I've sort of chosen that year at random, but basically you want something from the Golden Age to audition for the Golden Age.  Whether we're currently in a Golden Age is a subject of debate.  You should be able to act and sing this song well.  Annie Get Your Gun, Brigadoon, Guys and Dolls, etc

5.  Top 40 Songs from different eras, not from musicals.  Here's where it starts to get complicated, folks.  When I graduated from college, we needed one pop song.  That would never cut it these days.  Hold on to your hats!  Without a doubt, you could use a contemporary musical theatre song to audition for some of these shows.  Unfortunately, the trend these days is to ask for pop music only , and the breakdowns ITALICIZE IN CAPS "NO MUSICAL THEATRE!!"   Be prepared.

a.  Early Rock N'Roll:  Elvis, early Beatles, Girl Groups Million Dollar Quartet, All Shook Up, Grease

b.  1960s/70s pop/rock:  Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin, Carole King.  Beautiful, Beehive, Hair

c.  Country.  I actually love doing country songs because the stories are great and the lyrics are funny or at least theatrical.  Great American Trailer Park MusicalBig River, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

d.  1980's pop ballad and uptempo.  I know, I know.  Your eyes are starting to cross.  No one said it was easy!  Rock of Ages, Chess, Mamma Mia

e.  Contemporary Pop/Rock Song.  From the last 20 years or so.  Emphasis here is on style and, unfortunately, high notes.  Spring Awakening, Rent, American Idiot

6.  Sondheim.  Showcase your maturity, intelligence and musicianship.  That's more important than showcasing your range, unless it's Sweeney Todd, which I've already put in the operetta category.  If they see you can handle his material, they will give you sides from the particular show.  Any Sondheim show, except for those already listed in other categories.

7.  1960s/70s Broadway up-tempo and ballad.  Chicago, Funny Girl, Hello Dolly

8.  Contemporary Musical Theatre.  An easy category for most of us, because contemporary musical theatre is most likely why we fell in love with this damn crazy business in the first place.  Wicked, Legally Blonde, Les Miz

9.  Animated Film Tune.  Don't be naive.  As much as you love Sondheim, you have a higher chance of getting cast in a Disney re-boot than in A Little Night Music.  Just "let it go!"  Beauty and the Beast, Anastasia, Frozen

10.  Specialty Number.  If you have a particular skill, find a song that showcases it and keep it in your book.  You may not use it often, but you will love it when you do.  For example, I talk very fast.  Naturally, this is listed under my 'special skills.'  So I keep Getting Married Today in my book.  If I had some money high notes or a particularly great falsetto, I would likewise keep Glitter and Be Gay or A Little Bit of Good in my book as well.  

Full disclosure:  much of this list was culled from a 2012 article I read .  I have added to this list and taken from it based on my experience.  Happy auditioning!