Should We Go Back?


Yes, you should. Don’t be afraid of it. Unless it’s opening night, but that’s another story…

What if your singing audition starts off on the wrong foot?

This question has come up to me several times recently. If your accompanist is playing too fast or you miss your entrance or if you just simply feel like you’re not in the zone, is it okay to start over? What do you say? Does it matter? What will the creative team say or think?

The first thing to know is that the creative team wants you to succeed.

We are pulling for you; we are on your side. We want you to be the right person for the show. Put yourself in our shoes for a minute. We often have the same insecurities that you do, but from a different angle. Many of us start off audition day wondering if we are going to find the right actors for the roles we need to cast. Will the actors that we expect to do well actually do well? Will we be surprised by someone new? What will the auditioning actors teach us about the show during the day? Will the audition accompanist be adequate? These are just some of the things that run through our minds. Trust that we want you to do well. We can’t cast the show without you. And if you’re ‘the one’, we’ll sleep better knowing that this piece of the puzzle is settled. We want nothing more than for you to be the right actor for the job.

It doesn’t help anyone if you’re not showing your best.

If you start off on the wrong foot, nobody in the room gains anything. You feel bad about yourself knowing that you could have done a better job. And the creative team doesn’t get to see you with your best foot forward. Why bother? If you feel like something is off – even if it’s only noticeable to you – simply stop and ask if you can start over. You can say something vague like, “Could I give that another shot?” Or, “I don’t feel like I’m showing you my best – do you mind if I start over?” I don’t recommend saying, “This accompanist is an idiot.” I suppose if it is all the accompanist’s fault, a well placed glare could get your message across, but most of the time the creative team is aware of the problem. If the accompanist is truly not pulling his weight, it will be a problem all day long and at least you’ll be on level playing field with all the other actors; that accompanist will probably not be called back.

You don’t need a reason.

To re-iterate this point: you don’t need a reason to start over. If the least little thing is making you feel like you aren’t giving your best, just stop and give it another shot. Nobody is going to hold this against you for the long term. And if it helps you get closer to the role, then why wouldn’t you? Again, we’re pulling for you. We want you to do your best.

The purpose of an initial audition is to show us that you’re interesting.

I’ve said before that the purpose of an initial audition is not as much to show that you’re right for a role as much as to show the creative team that you’re an interesting person that they want to work with. Stop being obsessed with delivering the perfect, technical audition and try to simply live in the room. We are interested in who you are from the minute you walk in until you leave and everything in between. Think of it as your own personal brand – not just an acting audition. Believe me, if you make us love you we will find a place for you if it’s possible at all. So consider that a display of poise and grace as you consciously make the decision to start over can further exhibit your abilities to perform under pressure, your distinct personality and your ability to communicate in a difficult situation. Not to mention that it shows evidence that you are in charge of yourself and your craft and if you need to start over, you most certainly will. Who wouldn’t want to work with someone who possesses these qualities?

Will it affect your audition reputation?

Possibly. You might be known for the rest of the day as ‘the actor who had to start over.’ I’ll admit, the people behind the table can be cruel. In a perfect world, we’d be kind and generous and we would always remember that we need you. But, we are just as insecure as the rest of the world and are sometimes given to poking fun at actors. No, you don’t want to be that person. But, there’s also nothing you can do about it. It’s the risk of being a performer – there are always people that have mean things to say – but also always people who rave about you. As always, focus on doing your job and try not to worry about what is said about you. You can only control so much. And the chances of showing impressive qualities when you start over are greater than showing negative ones.

Regroup and start again.

So, you’ve stated that you want to start over. Now what? Take a deep breath and assess what’s wrong. It will feel like hours to you, but take the time you need. It’s your audition. If you need to look at the music, go to the piano and take a look. Focus and breathe. If there’s an issue with the accompanist, go back to the piano and state the issue to him. Re-communicate the parameters. When you’re ready, give it another shot. You’ll be good to go this time. If you’re not, that’s another problem not addressed here.

Questions? Start a conversation in the comments section below. Or contact me here.

Ben Johnson is a Chicago based music director and singing coach. He is the curator of The Money Note.

Having issues with your audition book or communicating with accompanists? My eBook, 10 Easy Ways To Keep Your Accompanist From Blowing Your Audition, was written with you in mind. I highly recommended it to change your mindset and process in dealing with audition accompanists.


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