Cher, Tina, Carole, Donna, Gloria. Divas. Broadway Divas. Divas so magnetic and prolific that their stories have become full scale Broadway Musicals. Award winning hit musicals, at that. These bio musicals have become a breeding ground for Tony nominee’s and winners (Stephanie J Block for Cher, Jessie Mueller For Carole King in Beautiful and don’t think for one second that Adrienne Warren’s tour de force Tina doesn’t have it in the bag). But the pop/rock goddess parade doesn’t stop there.
Broadway scores by mega stars Dolly Parton, Cyndi Lauper, Sara Bareilles and Alanis Morisette have dazzled a whole new generation of singers and theatre lovers. And the trend shows no signs of stopping with Sheryl Crow, Florence Welch and even Britney Spears (no, it’s true) flirting with the Great White Way. The point? Radio friendly pop music IS the new showtune! As such, every gal in showbiz needs to be ready to rock in the audition room and on the concert stage. The good news is, if you dive into the catalogs of the ladies I have listed above there is A LOT of fabulous material to tackle. The not as good news, casting directors and musical directors aren’t necessarily thrilled to hear the same 5 songs ‘screlted’ at them over and over during a casting. With so much music available, it’s important to find the gems that you can make all yours and get you remembered.
As promised, this one is all for the ladies!! (Gents, have a look at our last article for some ideas to help you blow the roof off the juke joint). To quote our grand leader, Beyonce, it’s time to get in formation. Here are some suggestions that are worth exploring on your search for your perfect pop diva moment.
Something More (Sugarland)
It’s country. I love country music. There, I said it. Love it or hate it, you cannot deny that country music, particularly for the ladies, is all about stories. And that’s the most important thing when you get in front of a creative team- tell a story. Not to mention, remove the steel guitars and banjo’s..you get straight up pop/ contemporary MT music that can work for lots of different scenarios. What I love about this barn burner is that it is a true “I Want” song. Set your intention and go for broke. Singer, Jennifer Nettles, is nothing if not theatrical both in delivery and vocal power. Take it after the interlude and lay into those big notes at the end. After all, more is MORE.
Sing this to audition for: Bright Star, Come From Away, Legally Blonde, Footloose, Waitress
Fun Fact: Jennifer Nettles is also a big theatre buff. As a special bonus, have a listen to her rendition of “She Used to Be Mine” from Waitress. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsISGz8IItk
Other country ladies to explore- Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Trisha Yearwood and, of course, Reba.
Me (Paula Cole)
Off her smash hit 1996 album, This Fire, the “I Don’t Wanna Wait” singer is all soul and discovery in this musical reflection of self. Like so many Musical Theatre showstoppers, our heroine must come face to face with herself (Rose’s Turn, anyone? Ahem, No Good Deed..). Play this for the raw emotional juggernaut it is and the notes will come second nature. This is a great piece to show range and individuality. Find moments to make your own musical choices and throw in some of that delicious head voice for texture.
Sing this to audition for: Elphaba in Wicked, Beautiful, Spamalot, Jekyll and Hyde, Dog Fight, The Last 5 Years, Jagged Little Pill
Other singer/songwriters to explore-,Colbie Caillet, Lady Gaga, , Joni Mitchell, Carole King
Heartbreaker (Pat Benatar)
Pat Benatar is a rock legend. But that’s not all, Pat is a classically trained singer. Just goes to show you that with a strong technical foundation your voice can do anything! This song is all guts and glory. No better way to show off your theatrical rock goddess. So hit ‘em with you best shot!
Sing this to audition for: Rent, JC Superstar, Rocky Horror Show, American Idiot, Hair, Head Over Heels
Other Rockers to explore: Joan Jett, Melissa Etheridge, Grace Potter, Heart ( it doesn’t get better than Ann Wilson, friends), Janis Joplin
If I Ain’t Got You (Alicia Keys) and I’d Rather Go Blind (Etta James)
I needed to include both of these incredible soul/R&B classics. I love these songs for a couple reasons. First of all they are SANGING songs. Range, agility, depth and texture are all on display here. You can ad lib as you see fit to put your stamp on the moment. But most importantly, the stakes could not be higher in these. High stakes make for a great impact on your audience, especially when you only have a few minutes to show them what you got. Commit to the desperation and yearning and your soul will shine through. The old school vibe can translate easily to more modern sounding R&B material you may be auditioning for.
Sing these to audition for: Motown the Musical, Hairspray, DreamGirls, The Wiz, The Color Purple, Priscilla, Tina
Other Soul/R&B singers to explore: Mary J Blige, Dionne Warwick, Sharon Jones, Beyonce and ARETHA!
And lastly we need to shout out our princesses of pop, well the one’s who can really sing, anyway. When melody, style and accessibility are the goal, you can always get to bopping.
Bird Set Free (Sia)
The chandelier chanteuse always packs a powerful pop punch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oT8ReF5rjE (Special shoutout to Broadway dancer Ricky Ubeda in this clip)
Set Fire to the Rain (Adele)
Pop drama dreams coming true. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ri7-vnrJD3k
Walk Away (Kelly Clarkson)
You know you love her. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MP4zbixKuo
Who You Are (Jessie J)
This one speaks for itself, and quite possibly for everyone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_D7nLeUphU
Use these bops to audition for: Mean Girls, The Prom, Kinky Boots, Bring It On, School Of Rock, Mamma Mia!
Remember, these are just a few suggestions to whet your appetite and help you on your way to find the songs that really resonate with you and your voice. There is plenty of music in the Morisette, Bareilles, Estefan, Lauper vaults if you want to stick the the ladies writing for the stage. But finding that ear worm that is truly fresh is a fabulous selling point. As always make sure you work with a music director to find the most efficient cut of your music to show off your voice, your storytelling chops and your personality. More than ever, pop/rock/R&B is the time to really make the music your own. We’ll be back to exploring ACTUAL showtunes next time (although don’t be surprised if many of these songs and artists hit the boards by then). Til then, keep singing!!!!!