The nerve-wracking audition: ‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you’
If you’ve seen my audition for “Miss Saigon,” it looks like one enjoyable ride, complete with getting autographs from the creators of the show. A quick run of “Sun and Moon,” plus a snippet of “Movie in My Mind,” and then poof!—off I went to London.
But anyone who has ever been through it knows that auditions do not ever go this way.
Truth is, auditions can vary, and as an actor, I never know what the casting director, producer or director of a certain project is looking for. Do they want someone my age? Younger? Older? Sassy? Sweet? Do they want me to play hardball? Do they want me to be a simpering, sobbing waif?
Even after “Miss Saigon” I’ve had to audition and sit in a room along with other women—hoping for a chance at a part, whether it’s for TV or film. It’s always nerve-wracking, as one’s turn to face the panel comes.
My first audition came at age 6, for Repertory Philippines’ production of “The King and I,” and it was for that terror of a director, Zenaida Amador. It worked for me that I had absolutely no idea who she was, so I feared neither her temper nor the decibel level of her angry voice.
I stood up on stage at the Insular Life Auditorium in Makati, sang a rehearsed version of “Do Re Mi” from “Sound of Music,” and recited my girl scout oath (Amador asked for a poem; I didn’t know any). I got in, based perhaps on a little chutzpah, and a loud voice.
The next big audition was for “Annie.” I had a major allergy attack that day, which made my eyelids look bee-stung. But I got up on stage anyway and sang “Tomorrow.” Once I got home, I raced up the stairs and shouted to no one in particular that I got the part.
Fast forward to “Miss Saigon.” Again I was clueless about who the creators and producer of this new show were (Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, and Cameron Mackintosh, respectively).
However, I was thankful to be in the company of dedicated people, for without Jaime del Mundo clueing me to Eponine’s anthem “On My Own” and lending me a cassette tape of “Les Misérables,” I don’t think I would’ve been prepared enough for the experience.
It was indeed an experience. The audition’s first day in Manila to the final day in London spanned over a month, with three sessions at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, three sessions at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and an hour or so of coaching with Martin Koch, musical director, at the CML offices.
I got to learn four songs in Manila, and two more in London. I even got to witness Keith Burns’ hearing that he had gotten cast as Thuy after he and I sang together on stage. It was very exciting! Right then, I wondered just how far my little journey would take me, and how it would end. Well, we all know how everything turned out (yay!).
Auditioning for a voice-over part is a little different, as one cannot depend on one’s looks at all. In trying out for “Jasmine” (and “Mulan” later on), the creators of the films needed to hear only my voice, completely disregarding my looks or my sense of style (which happened to absent itself from me that day, by the way).
Alan Menken and Tim Rice (composer and lyricist) and David Friedman (musical supervisor) all bowed their heads while I sang “Part of Your World” from “The Little Mermaid.” It was liberating, to be honest. I could just totally focus on my singing and not worry if my belly was hanging out or if my makeup was just right.
For “Mulan,” I sent in a tape of my voice sung to a track made by Ryan Cayabyab.
I’ve been fortunate, but I’ve also had my share of rejections (“Don’t call us, we’ll call you”). I’ve not always gotten the parts I tried out for, for whatever reason (“Not the right type,” “not the right voice,” “looks too young,” “looks too old,” “just not what we’re looking for”).
Just last week I auditioned for a part on a TV show (before anyone gets excited, no, not for “Glee,” but for another show I’m equally obsessed about). My agent then told me that production is going in another direction for that role. That’s cool.
Chances are that, for as long as I’m in this business, I’ll still be required to put myself out there, preparing my script pages, running stuff in my head, and hoping for the best.
To Bryan Andes and his kindergarten class at PS 212 for a wonderful afternoon!
Public School 212, in the heart of midtown Manhattan, has something unique and special happening as part of their social studies curriculum: theater. Many professionals who work or have worked in the theater pay a visit to the students. The kids then ask questions, act out a scene from a show that a resource person has done, and sing a song directly related to the visitor. On my visit, the kids performed a scene from “Aladdin,” and we all sang “A Whole New World” as part of studies on the composer Alan Menken.
Previous visitors have been actors Hugh Jackman, Susan Sarandon, Sutton Foster, Jonathan Freeman, composers Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken and director Harold Prince. It’s a great way to get kids interested in and committed to the arts.
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