First published on 28 May 2012. Updated on 23 Jul 2012.
Debora, A Chorus Line follows the painful audition process of a bunch of music theatre hopefuls, so I thought I’d ask you about your own painful audition process for this show…
Well, I ripped a hole in my tights.
I had a massive hole in the crotch of my tights and it kept falling down further and further. I was like, "What am I going to do?" I’m going to have to deliver this sexy, sassy scene…
And I just walked in, I said, "Right, I’m just going to have to tell you this right now. There’s a hole in my crotch." And they all laughed.
Totally! And it worked in my favour. A lot of the time when I go into these auditions I’m like that and I can tell who I’m going to do well with, ’cause generally they’ll find me naturally funny when I try to show my personality. You need to be able to ‘click’ with them in some way. Though there are times you go in and you crack a joke and they’re all like… [fatigued expression] "Riiiiight, okay…"
That’s generally the case, isn’t it? They’re not really interested in you as a person.
No – just get in and out. Sing your eight bars or your 16 bars and thanks very much for coming.
A Chorus Line was different. One of the first things they said to me was, "We want to see the real you." So I had to bring elements of my own personality into that read and it worked quite effectively. But it’s terribly intimidating at the same time. I remember those doubts creeping in…
How do you deal with those creeping doubts in an audition?
As you get more experience you realise you’ve just got to get rid of all of that and just keep a really neutral headspace. Otherwise everybody around you will just eat you up alive. They’ll just grab that opportunity and take over. So you try not to let any doubt come in.
It seems A Chorus Line is very true to just how gruelling that experience can be.
You go through the same thing that these characters do, you know: the knockbacks, the I-hope-I-get-it… I think everyone who goes to a music theatre audition, no matter what show, sings that song: “I hope I get it / How many people does he need?”
The actual audition was basically what you see us go through at the opening of the show: the jazz competition, the ballet… It was like living the show. A surreal experience. It was crazy, it was hard, it was nerve-wracking – but every audition is.
Is there a morsel of auditioning advice you’d like to share?
It’s about being yourself. You bring what you are to that audition room: your experiences, your look, your physicality. I’m an almost-six-foot tall woman – I don’t get seen for the girl-next-door types. ’Cause no matter how well I act it or how well I sing it, they don’t put this look into that box.
So you have to work with what you’ve got. Just embrace who you are, what you are, what your strengths are and, maybe, one out of five or six musicals will come along where you will fit that box. And that’s when all the skills that you do have need to shine.
You need a good attitude to survive the audition circuit in general, don’t you?
Yeah, the job doesn’t always go to the best person. I hate to say it, but there’s a lot of pre-casting that goes on in Australia. There’s a lot of talent in this country and a lot of people don’t get seen. It’s very hard for the young ones or the people who, like me when I moved to Sydney, just want to get seen or get an agent or get an audition to beat down doors and know the right people.
So, yeah, it’s a combination of factors that gets you the role. It’s not often just about being the best on the day.
And who has the best headshot.
Yeah, a lot of people don’t look like their headshots…
Time Out's interview with the production director (and star of the 1975 production of A Chorus Line) Baayork Lee