Playbill and Prudential are looking for fabulous early-career theatre singers with Stages on Broadway, a contest that will give artists a chance at a major NYC performance opportunity and a $10,000 cash prize. This year's all-star judges panel includes 2023 Tony nominee and Shucked star Kevin Cahoon, Into the Woods star Cole Thompson, Kimberly Akimbo's Alli Mauzey, current Broadway Elphaba Alyssa Fox, and Some Like It Hot star Adrianna Hicks.
If you're thinking about entering, you may be wondering how best to prepare yourself for success when making an audition tape. You're in luck—we talked to all five of this year's judges to get some insight on what put them on the path to Broadway stardom. Read their answers below.
What tools, tips, techniques made the most success for you when you were starting out and auditioning?
Kevin Cahoon: "Be prepared and swing big! The more off book you are, the better. Be yourself and think outside the box with your choices."
Cole Thompson: "When I started auditioning in the city, I'd try to be as off book as possible. But mainly, it was changing my mindset. For the few minutes I was in the audition room, I was the most confident and secure in my understanding and knowledge of the material. That helped me stay chill."
Alli Mauzey: "Really getting the song in my voice. My voice teacher would use the term 'woodshed,' working something over and over again—and that is just the technical part of singing. If the vocal technique of song is in place, then I don't even have to think about it and I can just let it go. I'm free to act and feel all the things and not be in my head about what my voice needs to do."
Alyssa Fox: "Remember that even in an audition setting, the judges are rooting for you to succeed! It's important to arrive with confidence in what you have to offer, because what you have to offer is different than anyone else!"
Adrianna Hicks: "Having the support of my family and friends really helped me when I first started making a career out of musical theatre. They always kept me grounded and helped me to keep showing up as myself unapologetically."
What was your go-to audition song when you were first auditioning?
KC: "An upbeat version of ‘I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.'"
CT: "I haven't had to sing many songs from my book since auditioning in the city, but in college I would always pull out 'It Hurts Me' from All Shook Up mainly because I just loved singing it."
AM: "I usually tried to find songs that others weren't singing, which can be tough. And, clearly, they were so obscure that I'm honestly not remembering them at the moment."
AF: "'Astonishing' from Little Women."
AH: "My go-to song back in the day was 'And I Am Telling You' from Dreamgirls!"
What is your go-to audition song today?
KC: "An upbeat version of ‘I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.'"
CT: I always love doing Stevie Wonder songs. 'Knocks Me Off My Feet' and 'All in Love Is Fair' are my faves.
AM: "Oh gosh, I honestly cannot remember the last time I had to bring in my own audition song.... If someone asked me today to bring in my audition book, I might actually pass out."
AF: "'He Touched Me,' sung by Barbra Streisand in Drat The Cat.
AH: "Today, I usually turn to a classic song by Whitney Houston or 'The Spark of Creation' from Children of Eden."
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting your career?
KC: "What ‘they' are telling you to not be and do is exactly what you should be doing."
CT: "I wish I had a more relaxed and optimistic attitude about auditioning. Going into an audition and thinking you truly don't know what opportunities a successful one can bring, instead of putting so much stock and stress-filled energy into them, makes the whole experience a lot more fun for me."
AM: "My self-esteem and who I am as a person is not dependent on an audition outcome. The audition process is just one aspect of a very full life. Prepare and give it your all in the room and then continue to fill yourself up with friends, family, other creative passions, and outlets. And the plus is you'll only be a better actor because of it."
AF: "I wish I knew that everyone's path is different as an artist. I felt like I was passed over so many times and heard so many nos over the years before getting the yes I wanted. It was very disappointing at the time, but all those hard years of work made the success even sweeter!"
AH: "How to file my taxes! Lol! On a more serious note, I also wish I knew the importance of taking my time to learn myself and this industry. It’s easy to want to rush through school to see if you can make it. But I’ve learned along the way how important it is to honor your journey and give yourself the grace to grow."
Any general best practices for making a good and effective self-tape audition?
KC: "Put in the hours. Be off book. Have a great reader in the room. Make sure lighting and sound are perfect. Do lots of takes and spend the time picking the best one. Remember, you are the star of this submission."
CT: "When I have everything set up, I give myself a good three or four takes for each side or song I have to record. Anything past that, I start to overthink and nitpick."
AM: "You'll want a quiet space without any background noise, good lighting, and good sound quality. And own it! Own who you are and take pride in what you are bringing to the table as you put yourself in front of that camera."
AF: "It's important for most of your body to be seen on camera—live performance is not just acting and voice, but a whole-body experience, so you want to make sure we don't just see your face for an audition, although that's important as well!"
AH: "I would say making sure that you are grounded and staying connected to the piece you’re performing. The camera really picks up on that."
What are you going to be looking for in this year’s contestants?
KC: "Originality and heart. You can’t beat those two things."
CT: "I'm excited to see how the different ways each contestant interprets their song, and a strong commitment to whatever that interpretation may be."
AM: "I'll be looking for solid vocals—center of pitch, tone, timing, interpretation. And I'll really want to see the singer truly connect with the material. Be you! Nobody is else is you, so shine bright!"
AF: "I'll be looking for vocal technique, acting intentions, and understanding of the character. Great stage presence is a plus!"
AH: "Anyone who is willing to shine their light without apologizing. I’m inspired by people who love what they do and leave no crumbs behind. I’m excited to witness all of the contestants giving it their all!"
Following a nationwide virtual audition process, four winners and a guest will be flown to NYC to perform in Times Square. Before arriving, winners will get a virtual Q&A with Broadway star Brittney Johnson, who will also give one-on-one guidance to the winners in person at a Manhattan rehearsal studio while they're in town.
The full judges panel will evaluate the Festival performances and select one Grand Prize winner to receive a $10,000 cash prize. Runners-up will also receive a cash prize, and all winners will be eligible to receive an initial consultation with one of Prudential's financial advisors to help with their financial decision making. All winners will also enjoy a night out on the town with dinner, a Broadway show, and a meet-and-greet with the cast. Airfare, ground transportation, meals, and hotel accommodations are all included.
To enter, make a video (three minutes or less) singing one of five pre-selected hit Broadway show tunes. You can choose "Father Time" from Kimberly Akimbo, "Giants in the Sky" from Into the Woods, "Independently Owned" from Shucked, "Darker Shade of Blue" from Some Like It Hot, or "The Wizard and I" from Wicked. You'll also need to tell us your role model when you started singing, what motivates you to keep getting better, and what this opportunity would mean to you.
Deadline for submission is July 31. For more information and to submit your entry, visit PrudentialStagesonBroadway.com.