PLAYBILL PLAYLIST: Nic Rouleau, Keala Settle, Kyle Dean Massey and More Share Songs That Were an "Audition Fail"

Playlist   PLAYBILL PLAYLIST: Nic Rouleau, Keala Settle, Kyle Dean Massey and More Share Songs That Were an "Audition Fail"
 
The essence of Twitter account Annoying Actor Friend (@Actor_Friend), who provides a satirical look at what it's like to survive as a working New York actor, will come to 54 Below for a concert benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Sept. 20. In anticipation of the evening, members of the cast share their "Audition Fail" stories as part of this week's Playbill Playlist
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The 11 PM concert will feature performances by Kyle Dean Massey (Pippin), Paige Faure (Cinderella), Nikka Graff Lanzarone (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), Jessica Grové (A Little Night Music), Lesli Margherita (Matilda), Nic Rouleau (The Book of Mormon), Keala Settle (Les Misérables) Stephen Wallem ("Nurse Jackie") and more.

Members of the cast (including Annoying Actor Friend) share their worst audition story and the song they performed — and offer a video clip of a more successful performance — as part of Playbill.com's Playbill Playlist. 

Presented like a drinking game set within an audition room, @Actor_Friend @54_Below, according to 54 Below, "tells the story of the modern day working (or non-working) actor living in New York. From college and pounding the pavement, all the way to Broadway and back on Funemployment, several actors will share their unique stories from their experiences in the business, paired with songs. It’s like A Chorus Line, without the serious stuff or the
1970s."

Annoying Actor Friend began as a parody Twitter account (@Actor_Friend) spoofing social media behavior and later went on to publish "#SOBLESSED," a satirical tell-all describing the life of the modern-day actor in New York City. "#SOBLESSED" became the Amazon #1 best-selling theatre book on its first day of sale.

The evening will be inspired by "#SOBLESSED" and promises performances and stories associated with experiences in college, pounding the pavement, on tour, Broadway and on unemployment. "The Broadway community has embraced this social media experiment with grace, and I would love nothing more than to give back by throwing a big-ass party benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS," Actor Friend told Playbill.com via email. "The vision for the concert is a master class/audition set in a drinking game. It's the book on stage, as told through the individual experiences of the various incredible performers in the concert. At this moment, I can neither confirm nor deny that I will be there, but more exciting announcements are soon to follow regarding another purpose for this event."

54 Below is located at 254 W. 54th Street. For more information and tickets, visit 54Below.com. For more information on "#SOBLESSED," visit AnnoyingActorFriend.com or click here. For other theatrical merchandise, visit the Playbill Store.

 Annoying Actor Friend: There has never been a casting notice I haven't foolishly taken 100 percent literally (that includes when The Lion King says, "Performers of all ethnic and racial backgrounds are encouraged to attend"). Years ago, I auditioned for a musical comedy with operetta influences. The notice asked for a song, preferably in the style of operetta, that was funny. And, it also had to tell a story. In 32 bars or less. I spent hours on Google (when I should have just sang my comedic up-tempo) and came across "Vodka" by Otto Harbach, Oscar Hammerstein II, George Gershwin, and Herbert Stothart. It took four people to write this song and only one person to take a dump all over it.

"Vodka" is from the 1925 operetta Song of the Flame. I'm sure at least [54 Below director of programing] Jennifer Ashley Tepper has heard of it. Anyway, when I first started out I was all about having the most obscure song in the group. Never mind that I could have gotten away with a well-performed standard. I thought it was better to learn something the night before and just royally suck at it the next day. Case in point with my rendition of "Vodka." Dorothy Loudon stopped the 1983 Tonys cold with her rendition. It can be a brilliant song that celebrates being wasted, but I was painfully boring. The reason this is an audition horror story for me is not because I screwed up in some epic way, but because I was just "meh." I made no real choices. I was stiff and wooden — almost scared. I mean who wouldn't want to work with that person?!

Half of what I do as Annoying Actor Friend involves drinking games, and I couldn't nail acting drunk at an audition. I should have just gotten drunk before.

Dorothy Loudon performing "Vodka" on the 1983 Tony Awards:

Nikka Graff Lanzarone: So, as you may or may not know, I am an obsessive researcher… Worst memory in the world, but I love to do research. And I LOVE to try and find the perfect thing to sing, especially when it's for a show that's off the beaten path or requires me to do something that will stretch me out of my proverbial comfort zone. When I got an audition for a show with this breakdown requesting:

"A 'literate pop rock' song — songs that are melodic but where there's a focus on the lyrics, and those lyrics are more literate, conversational, and varied rather than ultra-simplistic," I was inspired.

I racked my brain. I UNDERSTOOD this request. I wanted to show them how well I could take direction, how I totally got what they were going for. How I could be perfect for this show!

Then, it came to me: LCD Sound system. "New York, I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down." I was gonna be a little subversive. Point to the very thing that we were doing in that little room. The PERFECT literate pop-rock song. Only problem was the key. No problem, it existed on musicnotes.com, and I could change the key.

So I bought the song and put it into what I thought was a good girl key. And, I worked on making a good cut and memorizing the lyrics within that cut, and then finally the audition came. I showed up and sang.

…and I think they thought I was kidding, because there was laughter afterwards. Not, like, we-get-you laughter, but what-just-happened laughter. My obsessive research had come up with nothing! It was a total fail. Total disaster. I was mortified. But I read my sides anyway, and then just backed out of the room and down the hall and into the elevator, all the while wishing the floor would open up and swallow me whole. GAH.

LCD Soundsystem. "New York, I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down."

Jessica Grové: When I auditioned for Love Never Dies several years ago, I popped a piece of gum in the waiting room and then proceeded to sneeze (mint almost always makes me sneeze). I didn't think anything of it. I went in and attempted to sing "Tell Me on a Sunday" and managed to croak it out at best. It was the weirdest thing; it was as if an alien took over my voice! I sang that song so much (privately) when I was a teenager and always thought it suited my voice, and here I was auditioning at Telsey and BOMBING. I leave, with my tail between my legs, not knowing what the heck just happened. As the day goes on my voice gets lower and lower, and suddenly I have nothing. As it turns out, I bruised my vocal chord when I sneezed. It has never happened before or since, but because I had been on prednisone for a previous infection, my vocal chords were susceptible to injury and I guess it was a pretty violent sneeze. Needless to say, I totally didn't #bookit.

And now: Michael Crawford sings "Tell Me On A Sunday" on the Johnny Carson show:

Nic Rouleau: I remember very vividly a professor at NYU saying to never sing a brand-new song for an audition. I also remember very vividly being a precocious college student who thought I knew better and doing the complete opposite. So I crashed an Off-Broadway audition after deciding that "With You" from Pippin would be the perfect song to land me the gig, even though I only ever first heard it about 24 hours before the audition. I wish I could say I pulled it off like a pro and proved that professor wrong. But sadly I stepped into the room and couldn't remember a single word. Seriously. Not one word. Needless to say that was one of the shortest auditions of my life.

And, I mean, we kinda have to have a link to Benj Pasek singing "With You," no?? Look how young and adorable he is!!

Stephen Wallem: When I was living Chicago, I auditioned for the first national tour of Avenue Q. I thought it would be ever so clever and hilarious of me to do a song that would both show off my singing and my ability to do a puppet-appropriate character voice.

One of my favorite movies as a kid was Disney's "Pete's Dragon." The little boy Pete and the animated dragon Elliott have a cheerful friendship duet entitled "Boo Bop Bop Bop Bop (I Love You, Too)." Pete sings about how they're great friends. Elliott only speaks in grunts, mumbles and "boop boops." I decided I'd sing the duet as a solo, playing both parts, switching instantly and hilariously between the gratingly high Pete line and the basso gibberish of the dragon. They would surely offer me a contract on the spot with that kind of versatility.

I walked into the audition thinking for some reason that a table of creatives would be waiting to eat up my genius, each of them grabbing the Kleenex box to wipe the tears of laughter from their eyes. Being the general call, though, of course there was only a sole casting director and an accompanist. I launched in and gave a performance that could have been witnessed from the middle of Lake Michigan, including the section where Pete has a spoken conversation with Elliott…I finished, and pretty much had an allergic reaction to the enormous tumbleweed that made its way slowly across the audition room. The casting director looked down and barely offered the word "thanks." The accompanist handed me my chart stone-faced. Thespis himself stood at the door shaking his head in silence.

Don’t sing dragon duets for auditions. Just…don't.

"I Love You Too" from the 1997 film "Pete's Dragon":

 Paige Faure: Okay, so I know this is, like, musical theatre blasphemy, but when I first went in for a regional production of Cabaret to play Sally Bowles, I had never seen it live or even on film. I KNOW. And, like most auditions, I was called in for this one at 5 PM on a Tuesday for an 11 AM slot on Wednesday the next morning. I also had a show that night so time was of the essence… I decided it was more important to memorize what I could/prepare the perfect sexy black outfit/make-up plot than to watch the source material. I went in that morning and was the last of several girls to go. We were asked to prepare two scenes and the title song. Now, we all know (except for me at that point) that this song is at the crux of the play — she's a drugged-out mess, who may or may not have already had an abortion and is probably closer to her deathbed than being able to belt a high C. Having nothing but the piano tracks to listen to, I for some reason felt this song was a fun, happy-go-lucky romp and played it as such…like, picture the most pristine, bright eyed jazz-handy version you can. The director sent me out of the room where he then looked at everyone else like, "What the heck does she think this is??" Luckily, for me, he saw past the glitter and brought me back in, gave me what for, and then eventually gave me the job. But he still giggles to this day at my amateurish, baby-doll rendition of Cabaret. And, no, I did not play it that way in front of an audience.

‪Brigitte Kaandorp: "Cabaret Voor Beginners":

Keala Settle: Mamma Mia! was coming to Las Vegas, and they were holding initial local auditions when I was living there. We did the dance combo with choreographer Janet Rothermel (who I just recently did Side Show with in La Jolla and reminded her of this incident, which she SAYS she remembers!).

In this dance combination that we were taught, we were all given four counts of 8 to "freestyle," as it were. And I chose the typewriter. WHAT IS THE TYPEWRITER, you may ask…

The typewriter was a dance move made famous by MC Hammer back in the day. And I was going to let Janet HAVE IT with my rendition. The only problem was my torso was moving faster than my legs were.

LONG STORY SHORT: I ended up face first on the studio floor trying to make up the last two counts of 8 without looking like a complete reject. What did I choose to do?

I chose legs aerobics.

I was already on the floor. What could I do?

It still hurts telling that story. And, here are some other highlights from Mamma Mia!

 

Lesli Margherita: When I was about 21, just a few short years ago… I was in NY for a couple of days and got a last-minute audition for a new Broadway show. I tried to cram the music they gave me to learn from the show, but it just wasn't sticking. Or I went shopping. 21. Anyway, I must have gotten stuck in at one of the last calls; there were a lot of people in the room watching. I walked up to the pianist, and said, "I didn't have much time with this, so please plunk out the notes as loud as you can. They just make NO sense. (Laughs) I mean, ugh, who wrote this??" The pianist turned to me and said, "I did."

And now, just because, here's another beloved diva making a musical theatre mistake:

Kyle Dean Massey: I had just moved to New York and was pounding the pavement going to every single open call. After waiting over 10 hours, I was finally seen for a regional production of Annie. It was so late in the day, I was brought into the room with 20 other guys and we each got to sing two words of "Tomorrow." I got the best two words: "Tomorrow! Tomorrow!"… But, apparently, it wasn't enough to leave a lasting impression. I got cut…but it was probably because they went ethnic right?

And, here's Idina Menzel singing "Tomorrow" because… "Frozen."

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