Auditioning for the Modern Musical: Embracing Contemporary Styles

Auditioning for the Modern Musical: Embracing Contemporary Styles

The Evolving Landscape of Musical Theater

As a lifelong Broadway fanatic, I’ll never forget the night I submitted my Early Decision application to the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. The flood of digital confetti on my screen felt like a stepping stone towards my dream of attending one of the most prestigious performing arts schools in the world. But standing between me and that NYU acceptance was the daunting Tisch Drama Artistic Review – cue the Jaws theme music!

You see, I was auditioning specifically for the New Studio on Broadway (NSB), the only Tisch Drama studio focused solely on musical theater. And let me tell you, this was no ordinary conservatory. Unlike traditional programs that stick to the “golden age” of musical theater, NSB was all about versatility, training us to be true “triple threats” – skilled actors, singers, and dancers ready to tackle the dynamic landscape of Broadway today.

As I prepared for my Zoom audition, I quickly realized that the days of showing up with a classic showtune and a Shakespearean monologue were long gone. The contemporary musical theater scene was evolving, embracing a diverse array of styles that went far beyond the typical Broadway sound. From pop-infused anthems to country-tinged ballads, the modern musical demanded a level of genre-bending versatility that left me both excited and a little intimidated.

Navigating the Modern Musical Audition

So, how does one nail an audition for the modern musical? It all starts with understanding the nuances of the contemporary theater soundscape. Gone are the days of rigid categorizations – today’s musical styles pull influences from rock, pop, R&B, and beyond, seamlessly blending them into a captivating new sonic tapestry.

As I pored over the audition guidelines, I found myself confronted with a bewildering array of genre descriptors: “contemporary musical theater,” “pop/rock,” “country-rock,” and more. It was enough to make my head spin! But after digging a little deeper, I started to grasp the key distinctions:

Contemporary Musical Theater: These are songs from the musical theater repertoire written within the past 10-20 years, embracing a more contemporary songwriting style. Think Jason Robert Brown, Michael John LaChiusa, or the genius that is Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Pop/Rock: Modern rock and pop songs that you might hear on commercial radio, from the alternative sounds of Nirvana and Green Day to the soaring anthems of Coldplay and Florence + The Machine.

Country-Rock: A fusion of country music’s storytelling sensibilities with rock’s driving energy, as exemplified by artists like Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, and the Dixie Chicks.

Armed with this knowledge, I set out to craft my audition package, determined to showcase the full breadth of my vocal and dramatic abilities. I knew that the NSB faculty weren’t just looking for someone who could belt out a classic Sondheim showstopper – they wanted to see how I could inhabit a diverse array of musical styles and characters.

Putting It All Together

As I sat down to select my audition material, I couldn’t help but feel a little overwhelmed. Should I go for a contemporary pop ballad? A country-tinged story song? Or maybe a rock-infused musical theater cut? The possibilities seemed endless, and I didn’t want to risk choosing the “wrong” style.

But then I remembered the wise words of my NSB-alum mentor: “This audition is as much about getting to know NYU as it is about them getting to know you.” With that in mind, I decided to take a more holistic approach, selecting a well-rounded mix of material that would showcases the full spectrum of my abilities.

For my first 32-bar cut, I went with a classic musical theater standard – a lush, romantic ballad that allowed me to display my lyrical, legit vocal quality. But for my second selection, I opted for a more contemporary, up-tempo number that blended elements of pop and rock, pushing the boundaries of traditional musical theater. And to round things out, I chose a comedic character piece that would let my acting chops shine through.

As the day of my audition approached, I made sure to follow all the technical guidelines to a tee. I practiced my vocal warmups, hydrated extensively, and tried my best to get a good night’s sleep (which, let’s be honest, is nearly impossible when you’re this excited!). And when the moment of truth arrived, I took a deep breath, channeled my inner Broadway baby, and let my passion for performance shine through.

Embracing the Spirit of the Modern Musical

You know, as I reflect back on that pivotal audition experience, I realize that the key to nailing a modern musical theater callback isn’t just about mastering the various genres and styles. It’s about embodying the very essence of what makes these new works so captivating – the spirit of innovation, the willingness to push boundaries, and the fearless embrace of diversity.

In today’s musical theater landscape, gone are the days of strictly adhering to the tried-and-true formulas of the past. Composers, lyricists, and librettists are boldly experimenting, blending influences from across the musical spectrum to create something entirely fresh and exciting. And as aspiring performers, we need to be ready to meet that challenge head-on.

Whether you consider yourself a “Broadway baby,” a “Hamilton hero,” or a “Funny Girl fanatic,” the key is to approach each audition with an open mind and a willingness to explore. Immerse yourself in the work of contemporary musical theater writers, listen to a wide array of genre-bending tunes, and most importantly, never be afraid to take risks and put your own unique spin on the material.

Because at the end of the day, the modern musical isn’t just about technical mastery – it’s about connecting with the heart and soul of the story, no matter what style it’s wrapped in. And that’s the kind of performer that the Musical Theater Center is seeking – one who embraces the dynamic, ever-evolving nature of this art form and brings a genuine passion and authenticity to every note, every line, and every step.

Advice from a Seasoned Performer

As I navigate the ever-changing landscape of musical theater, I’ve been fortunate to connect with a wealth of seasoned performers and industry veterans who have shared their insights and wisdom. And one piece of advice that has really stuck with me comes from Ben Bonnici, a fellow NYU Tisch Drama alum who recently shared his own audition experiences.

“Remember, this audition is as much about you getting to know NYU as it is about them getting to know you,” Ben reminds me. “Embrace the opportunity to explore all that Tisch Drama has to offer, whether you’re auditioning for the New Studio on Broadway or one of the other incredible studios.”

Ben also emphasized the importance of being prepared, both physically and mentally. “Make sure to hydrate, get plenty of rest, and take some deep breaths before your audition,” he advises. “At its core, this is about you being your authentic self and letting your talent shine through.”

And when it comes to selecting your audition material, Ben encourages aspiring musical theater performers to think outside the box. “Don’t be afraid to branch out beyond the traditional musical theater canon,” he says. “Showcase your versatility by including contemporary, genre-blending pieces that highlight your unique strengths.”

Expanding Your Musical Horizons

As I’ve delved deeper into the world of modern musical theater, I’ve discovered a wealth of incredible artists and composers whose work is redefining the genre. From the electrifying pop-infused stylings of Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey to the country-tinged storytelling of Ana├»s Mitchell, the contemporary musical theater scene is a veritable treasure trove of innovation and creativity.

One artist who has particularly captured my attention is the inimitable Lin-Manuel Miranda. Through groundbreaking works like “Hamilton” and “In the Heights,” Miranda has seamlessly woven together elements of hip-hop, salsa, and traditional Broadway to create a bold, genre-defying sound that has captivated audiences worldwide.

And it’s not just the music that makes Miranda’s work so compelling – it’s the way he uses these diverse influences to craft rich, multidimensional characters and narratives. By drawing from his own Puerto Rican heritage and blending it with a deep appreciation for the American musical theater canon, he has created a truly unique and inclusive artistic vision that resonates on a profound level.

As I continue to explore the works of Miranda and other contemporary musical theater innovators, I’m struck by the sheer breadth of styles and influences at play. From the soulful R&B-tinged ballads of Kerrigan-Lowdermilk to the driving rock energy of Joe Iconis, the modern musical theater landscape is a veritable smorgasbord of sonic delights.

Embracing the Challenge

To be sure, navigating the ever-evolving world of contemporary musical theater can be daunting. With so many genres and subgenres to master, it can feel like an uphill battle to keep up with the latest trends and expectations. But as I’ve discovered, that’s precisely what makes this art form so exhilarating.

Gone are the days of strictly adhering to the “golden age” standards of musical theater. Today’s performers are expected to be musical chameleons, seamlessly transitioning between styles and characters with effortless grace. And for aspiring artists like myself, that challenge is both thrilling and humbling.

But rather than shrinking from the task, I’ve chosen to embrace it wholeheartedly. I spent countless hours immersing myself in the works of contemporary musical theater composers, studying their distinctive styles and musical influences. I practiced my vocal technique, honing my ability to shift between belting, legit, and mixed voice, all while maintaining a strong connection to the emotional core of the material.

And when it came time to step into the audition room, I drew upon that deep well of knowledge and experience to present a truly dynamic, genre-spanning performance. I may have been a little nervous, but I was also brimming with confidence, secure in the knowledge that I had the versatility and artistry to tackle anything the modern musical theater landscape could throw my way.

Conclusion: Embracing the Future of Musical Theater

As I reflect on my journey into the world of contemporary musical theater, I can’t help but feel a profound sense of excitement and anticipation. This is a genre that is constantly evolving, pushing the boundaries of what is possible and challenging performers to step up their game in ways that were once unimaginable.

But for me, that’s precisely what makes it so captivating. The modern musical theater landscape is a tapestry of diverse styles and influences, woven together into a rich, multifaceted art form that demands the utmost creativity, technical mastery, and emotional engagement from its practitioners.

And as I look to the future, I can’t wait to see what new and innovative directions this genre will take. Will we see even more genre-blending experimentation, with composers seamlessly blending elements of pop, rock, R&B, and beyond? Will the stories and characters become even more inclusive and representative of the diverse world we live in? The possibilities are endless, and I can’t wait to be a part of it.

So, if you’re an aspiring musical theater performer, I encourage you to embrace the challenge of the modern musical. Immerse yourself in the works of contemporary composers, explore a wide range of musical styles and influences, and above all, never be afraid to take risks and put your own unique spin on the material.

Because in the end, the modern musical isn’t just about technical perfection – it’s about capturing the heart and soul of the story, no matter what form it takes. And with a little creativity, a whole lot of passion, and an unwavering commitment to your craft, I have no doubt that you’ll be able to conquer the contemporary theater stage and make your mark on the future of this ever-evolving art form.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top