Grace McLean plays Marya D. in the Broadway bow of Dave Malloy’s electro-pop opera Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. Before she made her Main Stem debut in the new musical, she was in the audition room with just a piano and her repertoire. Here, she explains how he booked the job and takes us through her book of songs, and explains why it paid off to accompany herself in the room.
What song did you sing to book this job?
Grace McLean: I sang an original song at my first audition for Comet, “Beer and Longing in New England,” and I accompanied myself on the ukulele.
What are two other go-to audition songs you sing?
I love those ’90s chicks! Either “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette or “Criminal” by Fiona Apple. For a while I was using “Thing Called Love” by Bonnie Raitt. When I auditioned for The World is Round at BAM, I sang “A Long Walk” by Jill Scott, and that was really fun.
What have you used at auditions when casting directors switch to an 8-bar cut?
I fortunately have not had this experience, but I suppose I’d go with the end of “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” by Elton John, because who doesn’t love that song?
Any advice on finding the perfect cut? Do you work with a rep coach?
I probably should. I usually just look for songs that I like and know really well and that tell a story.
Where do you look for inspiration? How do you keep your book fresh?
If I could find good sheet music for a tUnE-yArDs song, I would totally rock it. I look for any opportunity to be my own weird self—I once brought in my looping station and an amp to an audition and sang some of my original songs. Totally worth it. I’d love to find an audition where I could accompany myself on my electric bass and play my wizard rock song “Snape Seeker.”
Do you have a terrible audition story?
If you ever audition for Steve Martin, I’d recommend being a person and saying hello and shaking his hand instead of staying all the way on the other side of the room and just sort of staring at him saying, “Oh. Wow. Ok… ok…”