Disclaimer: These are my own opinions so don’t take it too personally…
Also sorry I haven’t posted in forever. Life has been CRAZY!
So last week I had an audition for My Fair Lady (I was not cast… But oh well). The audition was semi-closed. They called in like 10 of us and we all auditioned one at a time for the director but no one else was in the theatre.
Maybe this guy just rubbed me the wrong way. He was kind of snooty and annoying.
“Real hoity-toity, you know the type.” (I really wish I had a gif of this quote…)
Anyway we go in to audition and this guy was in my group. I think he went before me but I can’t really remember because I was a bit nervous. So the guy goes up and he does his song, “I’ve Decided to Marry You” from A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, and I will say his audition was quite good…
EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THAT IT WAS AN EXACT COPY OF THE 2014 TONY’S PERFORMANCE.
I only watched the 2014 Tony’s once and I haven’t listened or watched anything from A Gentleman’s Guide since, but I immediately recognized this interpretation.
Not only did he sing it exactly like the original actor, but he did the same movements too! Right down to jumping up and down like a toddler at one point.
It is important to make a role your own, even if it is just an audition. Anyone can just copy a performance verbatim and to me that’s just as bad as copying a person’s words and passing it off as your own.
Now, there are SOME exceptions, but those are few and far between. For example, “Defying Gravity” has become so synonymous with Idina Menzel’s rendition that it would be really hard (and I can imagine, ill advised) to sing it much differently than she did. Also if you’re playing a character that is based off of a real singer. If you’re playing Carol King in Beautiful: The Carol King Musical, you better sound like Carol King. But of course, neither of these options are good when auditioning because they are so specific in the style they need to be sung. (“Defying Gravity”, especially is a big no-no for auditions).
When it comes to performing an actual piece in a show, it’s all up to the director but most directors try to keep their musical different from the rest.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever listen to any of the songs you choose for auditions before actually learning them, but I do encourage you to be cautious. My voice teacher once told me to listen to at least three different versions of the same song, it should be used as an inspiration, not a blueprint or pattern.
Listening to recordings can help you understand songs better if you aren’t familiar with a show or its story. Today I listened to “What Only Love Can See” from Chaplin and for me that really helped solidify what Oona was trying to express in that song.
I’ll give another recent example from my vocal practice. I’m currently preparing to sing “Watch What Happens” from Newsies in an upcoming recital.
I have done this song before and I’ve listened to the Original Broadway Cast Recording hundreds of times (I’m not kidding. I was a major Newsies fangirl. Still am, actually, if you really needed a hint). So the other day I listened to the OBC version again because I was having a difficult time figuring out where to breathe (if you don’t know, this is a very fast and wordy song. Not quite Sondheim, but close).
I figured that my version would be very close to Kara Lindsay’s, given all of this influence and familiarity I have from this song.
But I was surprised to discover that mine was very different. It’s still the same song and it has that same urgent feel, but my inflection and my movements are different from Kara’s.
I also watched a clip of Stephanie Styles’ rendition and hers is COMPLETELY different from Kara’s and mine.
I can’t speak for the director of My Fair Lady, but if I was casting the show I would probably have asked the guy to sing another song (most people carry more than one audition song with them), just to see if he would copy once again.
Copying another actor’s performance does not make you a good actor.
That is the end of my rant.