Are you ready?
Slowly but surely, the snow is melting in NYC. Sure, we’re calling that groundhog everything but a child of God, but no matter how the weather protests otherwise, Spring is around the corner. All of the big, splashy, new shows on the Great White Way are celebrating what feels like their consecutive opening nights, and sooner than later, we’ll be toasting this year’s Tony Award nominees and winners. Then, it will happen.
Once all the reviews are in, the statues and gift bags are given out, the box office receipts are tallied and the next Season officially starts, contracts will end and those actors lucky enough to have opened a show will be on to greener pastures. On the other end, the productions that were fortunate enough to not become a casualty of the season and recoup their earnings will spawn into National Touring companies. The question begs: Are you ready for that replacement call?
The phrase “Your Best 16 Bars” is enough to strike fear into the hearts of every gypsy from here to Las Vegas. Yes, 16 Bar Anxiety Disorder is real. From an actor’s stand point it’s hard to tell a solid story and show off your range in 16 puny bars (and that old trick of trying to use a song with really long measures isn’t fooling anybody either). Ultimately, it comes down to making some very clear and concise decisions at the outset, and asking yourself some tough questions:
1. Is this the best key for me?
Sometimes just a half a step up or down and can make a world of difference in how the song lands for the people behind the table.
2. Does this cut have a beginning, middle, and end?
So the first instinct is “I only have 16 bars so…I just need to go in and belt my face off.” While I’m sure your whistle register is the best thing since 1993 Mariah Carey, that’s the wrong approach. You still have to deliver subtext, beats, and intention, even more so when you’re doing 16 bars of a rock/pop song where the story is a little more open to interpretation.
3. Are you stuttering?
Speaking of rock/pop, most of those songs are written around a “hook”, the one part of the song (usually in the chorus) that makes it completely memorable. Oftentimes the hook is repeated as a songwriting device. Great for radio, not so much for your 16 bar audition. If you find yourself repeating a phrase like “BABY. BABY. BABY! BABEEHHHHHH!” It may be the wrong cut. You’re wasting valuable time and bars!
4. Is the character right for you?
We all want to be different and sing those songs for roles that we would never be cast in, because frankly, they’re a whole heck of a lot more fun. The truth of the matter is, while it may be fun for you to perform, the casting director is going to be wondering if you have any actual scope of who you are and how the world sees you. Make sure that your song is age and type appropriate, as well as show appropriate. You would never go into an audition for “Crazy For You” singing Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” (would you?). Do your homework, and give them specifically what they ask for. Nail that first 16 bars and you’ll have more than enough time to sing through the rest of your book.
Casting Directors can tell with in the first four bars (two if they’re really listening) whether or not you’re right for a role, or if you even really know who you are. Why take the risk of giving the wrong impression? While these were just a few tips to get you ready for replacement season, if you really want the hands on, gold plated experience, you should join us here at TVI New York for our master class “Your Best 16 Bars” with Tony Award Winner Randy Graff (Les Miserables, City of Angels) and Celebrated musical director Michael Larson. Randy and Michael will go through your book, adjust your keys, work your acting beats and spin your 16 Bars into a production contract! Call us at 212.302.1900 for more details.