If discussions about type are demoralizing to you, you're in the majority. I mean, we went into this industry so we could play different characters from different worlds. And then when we get down to business, we have to be ourselves?! Are you kidding me? Something doesn't add up.
Do not make typing personal. I repeat, DO NOT make it personal. It's about the snap judgments that are made about you when you walk into a room. After all, that's what an audition is! Remember, you can always affirm someone's assumptions or change them. But you do need to get into the room first. And to do that your agent will need to market you as a certain type.
But what are the types? It's easy if you're buxom and blonde or muscular and handsome, but what if you don't fit easily into a box?
This post attempts to flesh out some of the classic archetypes found in musical theatre. Most of us could do more than one, but maybe one particular area is our specialty. For example, I could be a leading lady type, but I slay a comedic villain. I was never, however, the ingenue, and I am no longer the chorine. (May she rest in peace.)
Full disclosure: I've borrowed from www.excavatingthesong.org, an excellent reference if there ever was one. (Did I mention I have a three year old and a three-month old at home? The theatre community has to share its wealth.) As the author on that site writes, "Typing is just a natural part of the business, and you mustn't let it stifle you and your creativity. Think of types, not as a box you must fit into, but instead as an outline for you to fill with your artistry, personality and heart."
I couldn't have said it better myself. Happy typing!
1. Female Ingenue (Maria, Cosette, Belle, Julie Jordan)
Ingenues are pretty sopranos (sometimes belters in modern shows) who are 25-ish (or appear to be) with open, wholesome, naive characteristics. While there is a classic femininity in these characters, the ingenues in musicals since 1943 usually posses a restlessness or desire for change in her life. Ingenues tend to be the leads, so it's crucial that the audience quickly falls in love with them. Sally in Cabaret, Elphaba in Wicked and Tracey in Hairspray are variations on this type.
2. Male Ingenue (Marius, Lt. Cable, Lun Tha)
The male counterpoint to the female ingenue is similar in youth and innocence. He is usually a good-looking tenor. He could be the show's lead, but more frequently he is a supporting character linked romantically to the ingenue.
3. Hero (Joe Hardy, Jean Valjean, Tony)
Similar to male ingenues, but these roles tend to be less romantic and more dramatic. He is handsome, hard working and strong with an easy charm. 25 to 40. Some are tenors and some are baritones. Middle or upper class, occasionally working class. They frequently come to the rescue of the ingenue or the community.
4. Comic Villain or Villainess (Ursula, Bud Frump, the Thenardiers)
On the attractiveness scale, these characters are usually at the ends: very character-y or stunningly beautiful. These characters provide the conflict which the other characters must work through. But rather than making them evil, they are softened by their humor. You love to hate them.
5. Dramatic Villain (Javert, Jigger, Bill Sikes)
The dramatic adversary to the leading man. Usually baritone. 30s, 40s or 50s. Powerful builds. Lower class or upper class.
6. The Temptress (Lola, The Baroness, Heddy)
Woman who is confident in her sexuality, which is apparent in her relationships with men. Smarter and/or a little more cunning than the chorine, mentioned below. Beautiful, sexy, frequently dances. Mezzo/belter.
7. Prince Charming (Lancelot, Cinderella's Prince in Into the Woods)
Regal, handsome and charming. Duh. Very similar to the hero, but not usually responsible for saving anybody; in fact, they often provide conflict.
8. Trickster (The Emcee, The Witch in Into the Woods, The Leading Player)
A complex character causing conflict by disobeying conventional behavior norms. They are striking in their differences to everyone else. Often they are associated with magical, other-worldly abilities. Classless or lower class. Think Tilda Swinton.
9. The Girl Back Home (Meg in Damn Yankees, Eponine, etc)
She is unassuming, easy to be with and doesn't know she's attractive, although she is.
20s to 35. Voice type depends on the show.
10. Fool (Sipos, Hines, LeFou)
Funny, charming, and ultimately harmless character actor. Any age or voice type. You never want to play the fool in life, but onstage, it's a gas! You get all the laughs and have all the fun.
11. Best Friend/Soubrette (Glinda, Millie, Anita)
Companion to the ingenue known for her humor and quick wit. Like the ingenue, she is young, attractive and somewhat innocent, but is more confident in herself and (usually) her sexuality. She can be either a soprano or mezzo/belter. Thoroughly Modern Millie is an interesting case where the Soubrette type is the lead and the Ingenue (Dorothy) is the best friend.
12. Leading lady (Dolly, Fantine, Reno)
Don't confuse the leading lady with the ingenue! The leading lady tends to be cast a bit older (or actually is a bit older) than the ingenue. What separates the two is a sense of wisdom and maturity, a lack of innocence.
13. Chorine (Lois Lane, Olive in Bullets Over Broadway)
Female singer or dancer who is comedic and usually not particularly bright. She can be sassy, brassy with a brittle, inexpressive singing voice and (sometimes) a New York accent. Belter. Lower class, but trying to climb up the social ladder.
14. Leading Man (Curly, Sky Masterson, Captain Von Trapp)
The Baker in Into the Woods and Herr Schultz in Cabaret are variations on this type. 30 to 50. Handsome, powerful baritone. (If you're an ingenue right now, you will probably age into a leading man or lady.)
15. Antihero (Sweeney Todd, Shrek, the Beast)
The antihero is a complex, misunderstood, unhappy leading character. There are reasons in his past for being the way that he is, and usually he isn't presented as a bad guy, although most feel that he is.
16. Sidekick (Nathan Detroit, Will Parker, Jeff Douglas)
Comedic, frequently slow-witted, but lovable. Often young, slim song-and-dance men. 20 to 45. Tenor usually.
17. Wise Old Man/Woman (Aunt Eller, Mrs. Potts, Mother Superior)
Warm, parental friend and care taker of all, but especially the ingenue. 30 to 70 or older. Baritone
18. Nebbish (Seymour, Elder Cunningham, Cornelius Hackl)
The Nebbish is the nerdy, awkward, sometimes effeminate, mama's boy. Frequently Jewish. 20 to 35. Character tenor or baritone.