At first I was loathe to write this post. Why would I want to reveal my sources for cool, obscure and powerful audition material? But love and be loved in return, right?
If you are a purist, these suggestions may not be for you. These are non-traditional sources. Some have a bit of a well-duh factor, admittedly. And a word of warning: Some songs are obscure because they simply are not good. Beware.
New Musical Workshops
The time commitment is usually low, meaning it’s easy to fit a project in between other shows. You meet great people. You get to sing. And many many times, you come home with completely original tunes, smack dab in your range. One of my new money-note 16 bars is from a series of original musicals I performed at the Theatre Building last year. I’m not sure what the future is for that particular program, but there are others. Seek them out.
Small Sidebar: My experiences at the Theatre Building over the years have been joyous. I have met wonderful and supportive people and I have learned so much. I don’t know what’s next over there, but I am forever grateful for every project I was a part of. The sheer amount of talent that passes through that establishment on a daily basis is astounding. I have been floored by the abilities of my music directors, the composers, and most of all Earth Mother Allan Chambers. He provides many important opportunities to new arrivals and up and comers, all while keeping a relaxed and supportive environment. I wish them all the best in whatever the future holds.
Obscure Disney movies
An obscure Disney move, you say? Surely ye jest! Well, pick one that doesn’t have a pj and bedding line at Kmart. Even the non-musical ones usually have a theme song. Try Freaky Friday (“I’d Like to Be You For a Day”)
Check out your favorite chanteuse’s lesser known albums. Composers are crawling over themselves to write for these ladies (and gents), and we are all the beneficiaries.
I believe we tend to be attracted to roles that “feel right,” roles that we have some connection with. Of course there are glaringly huge exceptions to this rule (I’m probably not going to play Asaka in Once on this Island) it’s a good place to start. Pick your dream role, then take the song from Act 2 that people tend to ignore.
Your Shower Routine
Oh, come on. We all have one. Perhaps there is a song you love, but you’ve never been able to find the sheet music. Consider hiring someone to notate it for you. It isn’t that expensive. Try hiring a music student at Columbia, for example. Many many music directors do it on the side for extra cash.
Old Movie Musicals
I’m talking about the ones that never really made it to the stage in any significant way: Funny Face, American in Paris, Ziegfeld Follies
Non-Disney children and family movies
Both animated and not. Think Willy Wonka, Don Bluth movies, etc.
He’s a jackpot.
Old Vaudeville Ballads and Uptempo numbers
Some are heartbreakingly beautiful. Others are absolutely goofy, and would work well as a comedic piece.
Those ladies may not be singing their songs, but talk about content, right?
Divas…but not the stadium Divas/Golden Age of Hollywood Stars
Instead of Judy, Barbra, Kristin, and Edina try Marilyn, Jayne, Jane, Bridgette, Sophia, Eartha, Blossom Dearie, and Ella
Instead of Frank, try Dean
Movie theme songs
Particularly look at the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Tootsie, for example has a very sweet theme song.
Something to note about country: As opposed to pop, rock, and r&b, country people sing legit, very near Broadway style songs. Cut out the twang and steel guitar and you’ve got a number.
Anne Murray, Carol King, Carly Simon, Bob Dylan, James Taylor
Older work from R&B -ers
Mariah Carey’s old albums have some great stuff. Men might want to try Seal.
Elton John and Billy Joel
Both of these have forayed into the world of musical theatre. But I’m not talking about their Broadway work. Particularly take a look at Billy Joel. Elton John’s rep is a little more widely known. Billy Joel has definitely had some gems pass under the radar over the years. Now, I am an unabashed Billy Joel fan, BUT that is very much because much of his stuff is really theatrical. If you’ve never listened to “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”, I encourage you to do so. I’ll reveal here, one of my 32 bar selections is from this song. I don’t use it a lot, but I have used it.
Your Fave Composer
Many many musical composers have done work outside the stage. Sometimes they compose for individual artists, sometimes movies. You never know. Dig around your favorite composer’s archives. You never know what will pop up.
I hope these ideas help you find new and exciting songs for your book and for performance. Sometimes, nothing is more invigorating and inspiring than singing a song you absolutely love, and that feels like a personal signature.