Join CJ Greer as she travels the country in the Broadway touring production of Company – coming to a city near you! Each month she discusses the ins and outs of life on the road.
“Phone rings, door chimes, in comes Company…”
I have been performing professionally in the commercial musical theatre industry for 25 years, but it’s been 10 years since I was in NYC, pounding the proverbial (or sometimes literal) pavement. Whether it was creative inspiration during our Covid period of isolation, or a path towards tenure (or both), I recognized that I missed performing. This past spring, I experienced re-entry. The landscape had changed dramatically. I am also a professor at a university, and I want my students to have solid “boots on the ground” information about the field they are entering in to. So, I embraced my fears and uncertainties, and started auditioning again. Lo and behold, I booked a job: a Broadway national tour.
This will be an adventure. It’s been 10 years since I was last on a national tour, nearly 20 since the first national tour I ever booked. Now I will be embarking on a year-long contract as a cast member of the Broadway national tour of Stephen Sondheim’s multi-Tony award-winning revival of Company. I’ve been contracted as a principal understudy/swing – an offstage cast member who understudies several roles. Simultaneously, I also will continue teaching for my collegiate musical theatre program thanks to Zoom. Since educating our future generation of musical theatre performers is a topic I am very passionate about, I’ll be chronicling our journey for the next year here at CS Music with an eye towards what the musical theatre touring landscape is now and how to navigate it. Check back each month as we tackle a new topic exploring everything from contracts to rehearsal procedures, packing for the road to travel rewards programs, eating healthy, vocal health, educational opportunities, outside projects, and more.
For this first column I thought we’d “start at the very beginning” with auditions.
There are many ways to audition for professional musical theatre. I am a member of AEA (Actors Equity Association), and I currently have an agent (who rocks, in case he reads this) who was willing to take a chance on me after being out of NYC for 10 years, so my audition experience is different than some. There are many roads to success and every person has a different story—even the people in this cast. Here is the short version of mine.
Auditions were posted on the AEA website. There were three days of EPA’s (Equity Principal Auditions) being held. To secure these appointments you must be an AEA Member, but you can also just show up and hope for the best! Sometimes they are willing (and have time) to see non-Equity—if you haven’t joined the union yet, that’s you. I’ve been a member of AEA since 2002 but was not able to get an EPA appointment prior to the audition days, so on one of the scheduled EPA days I stopped by the audition room and put my name on the waiting list. It moved quickly. I sang my “minute-and-a-half” cut of my song and left. I was also thrilled to see someone behind the table I recognized, and who—magically—recognized and remembered me. Bonus. Several days later I received an appointment from my agent. Hooray! The scheduled date was a date when I would be out of town performing my cabaret in Las Vegas—oh no!
But they agreed to let me submit videos and sent me the sides for two specific characters: 4 very long scenes and 4 songs. The package included accompaniment tracks. I worked the sides with an acting coach and a pianist (an out-of-pocket expense). I ended up having new tracks created because I had some different artistic ideas on timing than the track allowed for (another out-of-pocket expense).
In between rehearsals in Las Vegas, I asked my husband to read the scenes with me. He is not an actor (bless his heart), but he was an angel that day. Once submitted it was several weeks until we heard about a callback appointment with the creative team. Again, I coached the scenes (two more sessions out of pocket and worth every penny). The day of the callback I spent about 30 minutes in the room working through songs and scenes with the creative team, and was invited back for a final movement call, which also went really well. About two weeks later I received a “you’re in” phone call from my agent. Woohoo! Now what?! The contracts, of course! We’ll talk contracts in a later column.
And now, after a month of rehearsals in NYC, we are off! We traveled from NYC to Schenectady, NY where we enter tech rehearsals and open the show! Stephen Sondheim’s work, as well as the entire design and creative team, cast, and crew, is a marvel. As we are wrapping up rehearsals, I am seeing just how stunningly beautiful this show is, how incredibly talented the cast is, how fabulous the music is and how wonderfully relevant the message is: you have to participate in your life.