Booking It! Tony and Grammy Award-Winning Book of Mormon and Wicked Music Director and Orchestrator Stephen Oremus

By Adam Hetrick
04 Mar 2014

Oremus served as Music Director and Orchestrator for The Book of Mormon.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Can you speak a bit about the importance of vocal styling and straight-toning? Broadway encompasses a wide range of styles. Should you be fluent in all of these styles, or work toward your strengths/niche?
Oremus: Every show is different, and modern musical theatre requires such varied styles of singing. That said, I know plenty of people that are fantastic legit singers who would never be cast in a pop/rock show and vice versa. It's always great to expand your repertoire and range of style, but it's also important to know what your strengths are as a singer. All of the shows I work on require a large range of styles, so one would have to be proficient in each style to be in those shows. I would recommend that singers work on perfecting the style that they are most comfortable with and familiarize themselves with other styles that the show needs.

How do you feel about vocal embellishment and riffing during audition songs? Where do you draw the line when trying to show your skills, yet not overdo it?
Oremus: It's always a hard call, but I would prefer the actor doesn't riff. How am I supposed to know if you just learned something wrong or are trying to show off? Sometimes it backfires and actually hurts a person's audition. The time to experiment with that kind of interpretation is after you get the job, and even then it has to be appropriate for the character, or musical moment, and be dramatically motivated. It's still possible to show that you can execute a certain style without adding extra notes to the song. Music directors are responsible for ensuring that the original vision of the composer is upheld, so it's best for the auditioning actor to sing it as written (or recorded).

Although a song is known to be overdone, would it still be okay to use if you sing it well?
Oremus: Absolutely. A large part of the audition process is feeling confident in your abilities. Don't forget, the people behind the table want you to do well.

Depending on the audition, is it best to ask the creative team what they want to hear? Do you run a risk by picking the song yourself?
Oremus: The casting breakdown is very specific about what the creative team would like to hear in the audition. It's important to follow those instructions and be ready with your book to possibly sing other [songs] in a similar style or different range.