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Is a Kids’ Broadway Audition Like an Episode of “Dance Moms”?

Last week, my nine-year-old son auditioned for the upcoming Broadway version of the London hit “Matilda, the Musical.” If your kid has ever dreamed of performing on the Great White Way, or you’ve dreamed of applauding your child from the front row there (carefully consider if it’s the former or latter), then it’s good to know what to expect at a Broadway audition:

Nora Brennan casting agent

Casting Agent Nora Brennan

1. If it actually is you who wants to be there more than your kid, then expect A LOT of whining.

2. Arrive early to reduce the wait time. Sign in for “Matilda” was at 9 AM; we arrived at 9, not a minute before, because breakfast always overshadows all other priorities in my life. This put J at #23—not bad, but more than half the people arrived earlier than sign-in time.

3. Bring a book, Ipad, something to entertain yourself and cherubic child. The audition was slated to start at 10, but the first group of dancers (20 kids) didn’t go in until 10:30. The rest of us were told we could leave but had to be back by noon.

4. Expect bribery. J thought he deserved a cultural excursion to Toys-R-Us in return for working so hard at the audition (never mind that all he had done so far was read a book). Luckily I managed to keep the damage to one DVD for the family (which my kids managed to lose before they even watched it; does this happen in anyone else’s household?).

5. Remember to feed your child. J had a bag of popcorn but somehow I forgot about lunch, which might be useful before a two-hour dance audition. Yes, TWO hours!

6. Don’t expect to see any of the audition. All I heard was the stomping and shouting from what sounded like the “Revolting Children” number. J came out at 2:30 exhilarated and exclaimed, “That was fun!” But that’s all I got. (Of course that said A LOT. Insert sigh of relief from mother who prefers not to be a pushy stagemom.)

Matilda, The Musical

Matilda, the Musical

7. For a singing audition in which children need to bring sheet music, which is most of the time, they should have a “book.” This is a 3-ring binder with pages of music inside in plastic sleeves, which makes it easier for the pianist. We were part of the newbie crowd with loose sheets of music. Oops.

8. Expect some intimidating kids like the ones who broke into song, unabashedly rehearsing in the waiting room, and a toddler-size Michael Jackson belting out “ABC, 123″ in the ladies room. Likewise, several boys demonstrated rubber-band-like flexibility warming up for the dance portion. But by and large, the kids did what most kids do everywhere: played on their parents’ IPhones.

9. Sorry, no “Dance Moms” anecdotes. The parents chatted politely. We exchanged info about an upcoming open call for “Peter Pan.” We discussed community theatre and our artsy boys. Nobody boasted. I learned that some families traveled in from as far as Florida. The casting directors thoughtfully let those who had to catch flights jump the line.

10. Don’t expect to find out much about what the casting directors are looking for beyond a couple lines in the audition details. I learned more about what casting agent Nora Brennan wanted in this article I stumbled upon in the Huffington Post: “Nora Brennan’s Precise Art of Casting Children.” She’s not looking for a bunch of cute kids. She wants distinct faces and body types. That’s one thing I noticed looking around at the crowd of Broadway hopefuls. They had memorable faces, but they were characters more than cuties. In a former post, someone commented about being careful about the importance of looks in the acting and dance world. Maybe in Hollywood. I haven’t seen that at all here. The most talented kids are cast in these shows; the cutest, well he’s just plugging along getting experience at auditions and waiting for his big break.

Billy Elliot on Broadway

Billy Elliot


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