The Winter Musical audition process this year was a new experience for even the most veteran actors.
After a five-year hiatus from the role of winter musical director, performing arts teacher Christien Polos has returned and implemented an audition process with some variations from past years.
According to senior Emma Shoemaker, for this year’s audition for Thoroughly Modern Millie, a musical set in New York City during the Jazz Age, students were asked to sing 16 bars of a song from the production and to perform an extensive dance routine learned in advance.
Shoemaker said that Polos’ alterations were expected.
“Because there’s a new director this year, there was going to be changes,” Shoemaker said. “This is probably the process he prefers.”
Under the direction of previous director Ezra Flam, students were tasked with singing 32 bars from a song of their choice, picking up a dance routine on the spot and performing a monologue during the winter musical auditions last year, according to Shoemaker.
Polos said the audition process is always centered around the way the director views the cast. Polos said that for this year’s show a monologue was unwarranted because if a student was not able to successfully sing a select character’s part, it did not make sense to give them that role.
According to Polos, if an actor has prepared well for a role, the specifics of the audition should not matter.
“Any lead prepares themself well for the part,” Polos said. “If they come in singing the part as the character, then the acting should be in the song, as well as the dialogue. A good musical theater person carries the show through their voice. The girl I picked as Millie for the musical, she sang it as the character.”
Senior Nina Goodheart, Polos’ choice for Millie, said she had prepared extensively for the lead role upon hearing the selection of this year’s musical, working with her voice coach on the musical number, “Gimme Gimme.” Knowing the musical soundtrack thoroughly helped, she added.
According to Goodheart, the audition processes for the winter musical have differed over the course of the last three years. Goodheart said this year’s audition process matched up well with her skills as an actress.
“It allowed me to work more on the music because there was no monologue component,” Goodheart said. “We just had to sing and dance. One thing I struggle with during an audition is finding a monologue and memorizing it. The music part tends to come more easily to me.”
Shoemaker said that this year’s advanced dance audition portion was tailored to the musical.
“There’s this whole group of office workers, and their gag is that they tap dance,” Shoemaker said, in reference to characters in the musical. “That’s their thing. It’s very important that there are people who can tap dance or can be taught basic tap dance. I think it’s important to make sure people can dance and do the moves that are required. Last year, there were a lot of parts that didn’t do much dancing at all. [Polos] needs to know people can tap dance to cast them in these roles.”
Sophomore Talia Roland-Kalb said this year’s auditions brought challenges, but also some relief.
“It was a little bit stressful because we didn’t know what 16 bars we were going to have to do until the end, but we ended up getting to choose it,” Kalb said. “We ended up learning the choreography beforehand, so it wasn’t just like the stress of having someone watch you learn choreography. That’s hard.”
For Polos, one of the most important aspects of directing is assuming a receptive approach.
“As a director, you need to keep your mind open to how somebody else could play the part, because they might come up with a really interesting twist on the role,” he said.
Shoemaker said the changes to the winter musical audition process did little to reduce the number of auditioners.
“There’s always so many freshmen and sophomores who are excited to audition,” Shoemaker said. “If the numbers are smaller, that’s probably by chance.”
Matthias Muendel can be contacted at [email protected]