Putting Together Your Musical Theatre College Audition Package

Preparing a musical theatre college audition package requires organization, understanding of the requirements, and careful preparation. Read on to find tips and tricks to streamline the process of preparation.

Once you have chosen schools that you want to audition for, the next hurdle for applying to college musical theatre programs is putting together your audition material. An “audition package” consists of the song cuts and monologues that you present at your auditions. It is extremely important that you spend time crafting the right combination of pieces that not only display your talent but also reflect who you are as a person. Most schools ask for the following:

  • One or two song cuts [16–32 bars]. Sometimes you are asked to sing at least one song from a specific era (often pre-1970), but not all schools require this. You want your songs to contrast in style, mood, range, and/or tempo. 

 

  • One or two monologues [1–2 minutes long]. Sometimes a classical or Shakespeare monologue is required, but not always. If you are performing more than one monologue, you want to provide contrast in style, mood, and/or time period. 

 

Here are my words of wisdom for singing: 

 

When choosing material, it is really important to avoid overdone audition songs. It is so much harder to be memorable at an audition when you are a singing a song that we have heard 12 times that day! Google “overdone audition songs” and you will find many lists of songs to avoid. Some schools provide “Do Not Sing” lists, and those are also excellent resources. 

It is best to avoid songs from recent Broadway hits: Waitress, Dear Evan Hansen, Mean Girls, Beetlejuice, Hamilton, etc. There are plenty of great songs out there from lesser-done shows. Broadway and Off-Broadway flops often contain a few wonderful pieces, but they are not sung as often at auditions because the shows are not as popular. For a great resource, go to accuradio.com then click on the Broadway genre, and you will find 40 subchannels featuring Broadway songs from specific decades, songs by major Broadway composers, and songs curated by style (comedic, love songs, etc.). It is a free website with a corresponding free app and it is an invaluable resource for finding new songs! 

 

  • Avoid highly stylized songs or characters with dialect. We want to hear your authentic singing voice for college auditions.

 

  • Don’t assume that every piece in your audition package has to be big and showy! We don’t need to hear every single note in your range in your audition cuts. Please do not belt both songs or sing at maximum volume throughout. 

 

  • Each of your songs should show an emotional journey, and that means variety in dynamics and vocal color, as well as honest storytelling. If you have a big belt, we can hear that in a few carefully chosen measures; we don’t need you to belt at top volume for the whole cut. It is much more impressive to hear a young singer who can sing with nuance in a range of dynamic levels. That shows artistry and musicianship, as well as expressivity and good vocal technique. 

 

  • If you do choose one showy song, try to contrast with another piece that is simpler, showcasing softer dynamic levels and more emotional vulnerability. 

 

  • And less is more when it comes to riffing. Make sure that there is acting intention behind the riffing, as well.   

 

 

These guidelines apply to monologues: 

 

  • Avoid monologues where all you do is yell or cry. When your whole audition package is intense and loud, for those of us behind the audition table, it feels like you are yelling or performing at us instead of drawing us into your performance. Believe it or not, simple and honest is much more impressive than fortissimo and “in your face.”

 

  • You can have moments in your monologue that are very angry or sad, but make sure that your piece has a journey and an arc. It is much more interesting to see someone who is trying to keep it together under challenging circumstances than someone who is just breaking down the whole time. We want to see an honest, vulnerable person on stage who is trying to win the day. 

 

  • At least one of your pieces should feel closer to who you are right now. We want to get a sense of your personality in the audition room, and your monologue choices reflect that. 

 

As with singing, avoid highly stylized characters or monologues in dialect, so we can hear your authentic speaking voice for college auditions. 

Since each school has different criteria when it comes to the required number of audition songs and monologues, length of cuts, style of pieces, etc., you may need to have several different cuts of the same songs and monologues so that you can adhere to each school’s guidelines. 

In order to keep all of this information straight, I highly recommend that you make yourself a college audition spreadsheet with a row for each school that lists these items:

 

  • The number of song cuts they want and the required length (16 bars, 32 bars, one minute long, etc.)

 

  • Any specific style or era requirements (one song must be pre-1970, one song should be pop/rock, etc.)

 

  • The number of monologues they ask for and the specific style or era

 

  • If a video prescreen is required, the video submission deadline

 

  • Application due date

 

  • Live audition date

 

  • Whether there will be an accompanist on-site or you need to bring a backing track and playback device

 

Being super organized up front will help you avoid more stress as the audition dates near. A well crafted audition package shows us your artistic range and makes us want to work with you.  It really pays off when you put in the time to find special pieces that speak to you and authentically represent your unique talent and personality. Happy audition season!

Nadine Gomes

Nadine Gomes has spent her career exploring the genres of musical theatre, jazz, and opera as a singer and voice teacher. She is a full-time Lecturer in Voice in the Theatre Conservatory in the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, where she has been on faculty since 2004. Nadine received an M.M. in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from the Music Conservatory in CCPA at Roosevelt University, she earned a B.S. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, and she was a Vocal Jazz Performance Major at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Her students sing on Broadway, in national tours, in regional theatres, and throughout Chicago.