Booking It! Casting Director Tara Rubin On Auditioning for Long-Running Shows, First Impressions, Callback Pitfalls and More

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18 Jul 2014

Ramin Karimloo in <i>Les Misérables</i>
Ramin Karimloo in Les Misérables
Matthew Murphy

Playbill.com's new feature series Booking It asks leading industry members to share professional insights, need-to-know tips and essential tricks of the trade for up-and-coming and established theatre artists. This week we speak with casting director Tara Rubin.

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Last season, Tara Rubin — who leads Tara Rubin Casting (which also includes casting directors Eric Woodall, Merri Sugarman, Kaitlin Shaw, Lindsay Levine and Scott Anderson) — cast the Tony Award-nominated Broadway productions Mothers and Sons, Aladdin and Les Misérables as well as Bullets Over Broadway, A Time to Kill and Big Fish.

Her casting credits also include Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson; The Heiress; Ghost The Musical; One Man, Two Guvnors; Peter and the Starcatcher; Jesus Christ Superstar; Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway; How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying; Promises, Promises; A Little Night Music; Guys and Dolls; Shrek the Musical; Billy Elliot: The Musical; Glory Days; The Country Girl; The Little Mermaid; The Farnsworth Invention; Young Frankenstein; The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee; The Producers; and more.

Tara Rubin Casting also casts for the long-running musicals The Phantom of the Opera, Mamma Mia! and Jersey Boys.

Rubin answered Playbill.com's questions, via email, on auditioning for long-running shows, how to present oneself in the audition room, callback pitfalls and more. For more information, visit her page at the Playbill Vault.

You've cast long-running shows including The Phantom of the Opera, Jersey Boys and Mamma Mia! What do you look for in actors coming in for a long-running show? Someone to fit the mold? Fresh, raw talent? What advice can you give an actor going in for one of these productions?
Tara Rubin: On long-running shows we look for actors who can continue to portray the characters the way they were originally conceived. For instance, to play Christine Daaé in Phantom of the Opera you must be able to sing the score as written. But, we are always interested in making sure the characters remain lively and vivid — we aren't looking to replicate or duplicate, but rather for actors who are capable of playing the role and who inhabit the role with their own humanity and personality without changing the music or the text.

You recently cast the current Broadway revival Les Misérables (which has been re-imagined and deviated from typical casting choices). What do you suggest for an actor going in for a well-known show? To simply present the best version of themselves or to really prepare based on what they know? How prepared is too prepared?
TR: I really don't think there is such a thing as "too prepared." Preparation is the spine in the audition — it will keep the actor standing upright when nerves or something unexpected happens in the audition room. But, we want to see a living, breathing human being in the audition — not someone who has prepared technically and rigidly. We want to see your ideas about the characters.

What has changed about the casting process for shows such as Les Miz and Phantom? Are the demands different than they were before? We're also seeing a lot more multi-racial casting…
TR: It is truly wonderful to be able to present a diverse cast for these well-known shows. I am thrilled that actors of different ethnic backgrounds are interested in being in these shows. As far as the casting process changing — I do think we have come to expect cast in the sung-through shows to be excellent actors as well as singers. It's not enough to be able sing the score beautifully — there is an emotional and personal journey that all of the characters take in these shows, and the creative teams expect to see an actor's ability to do that in the audition room.



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