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Broadway Audition Prep: Giving a Budding Child Star an Edge

Back in the day, kids used to play one sport per season, and if they had any one-on-one coaching it was from dad in the backyard. Now for my seven-year-old ball player, Little League supposedly isn’t enough. There’s also an 8 and Under Developmental Program, which tacks on five hours of practice per week and $600 for the season. I imagine there was also a day when an SAT review book didn’t exist, let alone SAT coaching. Child stars may be a slightly different story, if you consider the intensity (and insanity) of Judy Garland‘s studio grooming (and medicating), for example. But a recent “audition prep” workshop before the casting for Matilda on Broadway made me wonder. I mean, is that really fair to the kids who don’t take the workshop?

Thommie Retter Dance Workshop

Thommie Retter Dance Workshop

I promptly squelched that line of thought, as it’s not at all conducive to effective stage-mom parenting, and signed up J. (He’s my 9-year-old who auditioned for Matilda last time around, without any specific prep.) In the waiting room outside that workshop and at the audition, moms compared notes about musical theatre programs, performing arts camps ($5,000 for 3 weeks), dance studios, vocal and dance coaches (over $100 an hour; one we know charges $250). Getting a leg-up in the biz can cost an arm and a leg! Many kids tune their belting voices with Trapper Felides of Oxygen’s “The Next Big Thing.” (Hey, Trapper, check your text messages. I’m trying to book a session. I’m really sorry I didn’t know who you were when we met. I have four little kids, an overgrown teenager for a husband, a freelance writing job, and this time-consuming blogging gig. My reality TV viewing time is zilch, but I’m working on it. You rock.) Moms have to be totally on top of it. Stars are molded, not born.

I can say two things about the workshop my son took with dance phenomenon Thommie Retter (former Mr. Braithwaite from Billy Elliot the Musical, and therefore God as far as J is concerned): 1. J had so much fun he was giddy the entire afternoon and evening. 2. He came out of the Matilda dance audition beaming. Okie dokie, money well spent (and it wasn’t even pricey).

I also kinda doubt the 8U Little League coaches can do anything this impressive: Watch the Video of Thommie tapping (at the bottom of the page on the left in the link).

Aside from Thommie, here is the caliber of talent you may stumble upon at one of his workshops… Kiril Kulish (one of the original Billy’s):


As for Matilda, I couldn’t help but put my ear against the door while J sang…two songs. I resisted clapping. Would they really ask for a second song (“Electricity” from Billy Elliot) after an 8-hr day of auditioning if they weren’t a teeny bit interested? That is just the kind of thinking that can undermine my post-audition advice: Walk out and forget about it.

The casting director did tell me J (whom she’d seen at Alvin Ailey last November) was on the top of the list to play Billy Elliot in the Broadway tour, which, sadly, is closing before he’ll get his chance. Bad luck. Coaching may be key these days, but no one can deny that Lady Luck still plays a starring role.