On The Coach

Sara Louise Lazarus:
Audition Book Essentials

Sara Louise Lazarus has directed shows in theatres and cabarets throughout New York City, including the Jewish Repertory Theatre and Avery Fischer Hall, Lincoln Center. She has been the recipient of MAC and Bistro Awards for Outstanding Cabaret Direction. Ms. Lazarus is the founder of the Sara Lazarus Studio for Musical Performance Studies where she teaches. She serves on the advisory board for Singers on Stage.

It’s audition time in New York, you’re new here and you need help. What to sing? You fumble around in a stack of papers for a complete copy of the song you want to sing, only to discover the last page is missing. “Oh well, maybe the pianist can fake it,” you say.

Not exactly. And you won’t get very far in New York with that kind of disorganization. Enter Sara Louise Lazarus, extraordinary New York song interpretation coach. Ms. Lazarus spends her time helping singing actors of all levels get organized and prepared for the big audition.

First, you need a book. A three-ring binder is best, with music in non-glare sheet protectors and well-marked for the pianist. Sara recommends that a basic audition book contain “two songs that you do really, really well. A singer can be defeated by a huge book of music that you ‘sort of’ know.” Sara spends up to eight sessions in her classes grooming and refining the singer until they can walk out with two great pieces perfectly suited to them.

She suggested the pieces be contrasting. For example, a woman might want to get two songs-a legit ballad and a belt up-temp.

Over time the book will expand. She said, “It’s okay to learn other songs, but a basic book should contain four, five, six songs max, including a mix of standard, pop, contemporary up-tempos.”

For revivals, Sara encourages songs from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s by composers such as Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart, Berlin and Porter. “It’s always good to have a funny song, unless you’re not good at comedy. Always audition with your strength. Voice lessons and acting classes are for stretching. At auditions, sing what you sing best-something you can sing eight shows a week.”

What are the most common mistakes singers make in choosing audition material? Sara has learned from years of experience critiquing and coaching: “It’s not knowing who you are, what your strengths are and how you would be cast.”

Some singers could add “extraordinary, dramatic pieces, but those are fill-in kinds of selections for specific auditions, and only for singers who can fulfill the song’s vocal and emotional demands.”

The key to a good audition book is less is more. “People can make a career out of singing one song brilliantly. It’s owning a song that allows auditors to get excited about you and know how they can cast you,” she said.

So break a leg at your next audition, but take Sara’s advice and get your book ready now.

– Cherilyn Bacon, Managing Director, Singers on Stage