Tag Archives: Broadway auditions

From Phoenix to Broadway

Hometown boy Nick Cartell, a swing for the Broadway production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” opening this week at the Neil Simon Theatre in NYC, moved from Michigan to Phoenix at just six months old — where he lived until completing a BA in theatre performance at ASU in Tempe.

Cartell was a member of the Phoenix Boys Choir from third through fifth grade, and describes the experience as “the beginning of my training.” Back then, he was a boy soprano. Today he’s a high tenor, and one of several actors prepared to take over should a male cast member be unable to perform for some reason.

Nick Cartell performs in "The Sound of Music" during Valley Youth Theatre's 1998-99 season.

Between boys choir and Broadway, there were performances with several local theater companies. Cartell’s last show with Valley Youth Theatre (“West Side Story”) overlapped with his first show with Phoenix Theatre (“Man of La Mancha”), so the transition from youth to adult theater felt seamless. But it was three years performing with Disney in Tokyo that made the leap to Broadway feel natural. “If I can make it in Tokyo,” thought Cartell, “I can do a big city like New York.” Before landing the Broadway gig, he did several Off-Broadway productions.

We assume too often that someone who can sing, dance and act will nail every audition. Or think that being a great performer is enough. Not so, says Cartell. Auditioning is a skill, just like acting, that has to be honed. “I wish more schools would teach it,” reflects Cartell — who also shares that NYC is full of folks who can sing, act and dance. Making it requires something more — like hard work, preparation, ongoing training and a desire to improve at every juncture.

Teens interested in musical theater careers should get all the voice, dance and acting training they can, says Cartell, who notes that plenty of community-based options exist for those who can’t afford one-on-one vocal coaching and such. “Keep learning and working to get better,” urges Cartell. Sitting too pretty in pride over past accomplishments won’t set you apart in settings like Broadway that are filled with talented folk.

For some, it’s tough to balance training/performing demands with schoolwork and other responsibilities. But Cartell says he rarely struggled with such things. He knew what he wanted and he worked like the dickens to get it all done. Meeting and shaking hands with one of his musical theater idols, Andrew Lloyd Webber (composer for “Jesus Christ Superstar”), was one of many moments when it all paid off.

Cartell heard last October that the Stratford Shakespeare Festival production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” would be heading to Broadway, and spotted the Actors Equity audition posting in late December. Auditions began one January day at 9:30am, and several hundred people showed up. Cartell arrived at 7am, and ended up being the first to audition that day — singing Journey’s “Open Arms” for musical director Rick Fox and the casting director.

A series of callbacks followed, each requiring that Cartell learn and perform more material. As I interviewed Cartell in a diner near the Neil Simon Theatre, he gleefully recounted each step in the process — recalling, along with wife Christie Bettes Cartell, the exact date and time of each. Dance callback — Jan. 30 at 3pm. Final callback — Jan. 31 at 1pm — before director Des McAnuff, choreographer Lisa Shriver and two others.

Cartell recalls choosing an order for the songs he’d been asked to prepare in case he was told to just run with it. Instead, they asked first for the most difficult piece — “Gethsemane.” Cartell felt afterwards that he’d given the best audition of his life. There was nothing more he could do. It was in the show’s hands. By 3pm the call came in. He was chosen for the role of swing. A formal offer followed on Feb. 1, and he began rehearsing Feb. 9 for his first preview on March 9.

Cartell admits that it all feels a bit “surreal” at this point, adding that he’s “so proud to be part of this show.” Cartell notes that the “Jesus Christ Superstar” story is appealing “regardless of what you believe” — suggesting that most are familiar with the story, and empathize with the challenges faced by Jesus the man.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” focuses on the last seven days of Jesus’ life, so key players include Judas, Mary Magdalene, Pontius Pilate, King Herod and others. But there’s something new in this production, according to Cartell, who says there’s a bit of a love triangle vibe between Jesus, Judas and Mary Magdalene. Seems there’s magnetism between both men and Mary, and perhaps both men as well.

When I asked Cartell to share audition tips with young actors back home, he first recounted a piece of advice received as an 18 year old fresh out of high school — Listen to soundtracks. “Sing along,” Cartell suggests, “but find your own voice with it.”  The advice, by the way, came from Matt Bogart — then performing the role of Chris in “Miss Saigon,” and now performing the role of Nick across the street from Cartell in “Jersey Boys” at the August Wilson Theatre.

Sometimes the gig goes not to the best performer in the room, but to the one with the most passion. “If you connect with what you are singing, even if you are not the best singer, they will go on that journey with you.” Auditions start before you ever begin to sing, says Cartell. It’s also about how you handle yourself in the room — and even the hallway where you’re waiting to be called. “You never know,” shares Christie, “who the monitor is.”

Have your music cut correctly, adds Cartell. You may only get 8 or 16 bars, so prepare your music accordingly. Nobody wants to fuss over your music at the piano. Stay in shape, recommends Cartell, because musical theater requires plenty of stamina. “Get into dance, acting classes — anything and everything.” Do voice lessons too if you can swing it financially. Time spent learning tap, jazz, ballet and theater makes you more marketable, says Cartell. At the end of the day, adds Cartell, it’s a business.

Previews for “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which had a San Diego run before heading from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival to Broadway, end March 21 — and the show officially opens March 22. If you’ve been toying with making the trip from Phoenix to Broadway, consider getting tickets to “Jesus Christ Superstar” so you can support our hometown talent. Who knows, it might be your own child making the journey from Phoenix to Broadway one day.

— Lynn

Note: Spring performing arts classes at VYT start Sat, March 24. Click here to explore both weekday and weekend options.

Coming up: More adventures with VYT alumni, A way with words, Quilting for a cause, Art contest for kids

Advertisements

Got auditions?

Today I received an e-mail about an audition taking place tomorrow, leaving me little time to inform “Stage Mom” readers.

I’m always pleased to learn of Valley auditions, but I’ve started referring folks to the calendar editor for Raising Arizona Kids magazine, who can add local auditions for youth to her listings when given enough notice. (How to submit a calendar notice.)

My own daughter Lizabeth, soon to start BFA in acting studies at Pace University in New York City, has long subscribed to weekly audition notices published by longtime Valley theater professional Laura Durant.

Her notices, also available on the Durant Communications website at www.durantcom.com, detail which roles are open, what’s expected for particular auditions and such. And they’re broken down into several categories making it possible to search for child and teen opportunities.

It’s best to check the websites of various acting companies as well, even those that normally produce only adult fare. Sometimes they present works for which younger actors are needed. Subscribing to e-newsletters sent by theater companies generally gets their audition info to you more quickly.

Most companies audition for youth productions individually, but sometimes auditions for a whole season’s worth of shows take place together. It’s not unusual for the Valley’s professional theater companies to partner for season auditions, but they’re generally looking for adult actors.

Some companies, including Greasepaint Youtheatre and Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale, offer workshops that help children and teens prepare for particular auditions. There’s usually a small charge to participate. Some, like Valley Youth Theatre, offer details about their audition process online.

Sometimes Valley venues share audition opportunities through their e-newsletters or social networking vehicles like Facebook and Twitter. Folks who follow ASU Gammage were among the first to learn about last Saturday’s dance auditions for a Camp Broadway number being performed at this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC.

Many Valley music, dance and peforming arts studios send audition notices to subscribers and/or post them on websites and social media. Be sure you’re signed up at the studios where your child studies, and follow the sites of other Valley studios too. You’ll want to check for audition news at least once a week.

Watch for audition notices in unexpected places too — including your local community college theater departments, which sometimes need young actors for works like “The Music Man” when it’s hard to put a young adult actor in a child’s role.

Youth who take theater or other performing arts classes in school settings will discover that savvy teachers are often familiar with audition opportunities in surrounding communities.

Audition slots are sometimes limited, so call right away if appointments are required and your child has his or her heart set on auditioning. Then follow directions, bringing requested items like headshots and resumes, and making sure sheet music and such is ready to go.

One of Lizabeth’s voice teachers, now working on her own theater career in NYC, suggested some time ago that Lizabeth subscribe to a publication called Back Stage — which you can also explore online. It lists auditions in LA, NY and other regions — and breaks notices into various categories like film/television, theater, singers/dancers, commercials/models, comedians and entertainers. Even reality TV.

It never hurts to follow news noted on websites like www.broadwayworld.com, www.broadway.com and www.playbill.com. Some of the audition notices they post include options for auditioning by video for actors who can’t make the open call in person.

If your child or teen has Disney dreams, you can search for theater, television and other auditions on the Disney website at www.disney.go.com.

As kids get more experienced with auditioning and performing, they’ll begin to hear of auditions by word of mouth — sometimes getting called in to audition for roles because someone in the theater community has suggested they might be a good fit.

It’s one of many reasons it rarely pays to make a big fuss when your child or teen is passed over for something else. I doubt anyone wants to hire a young actor whose stage mom or diva dad has a reputation for ranting and raving within a camp, community theater or other setting.

As kids get older, they can do their own digging for auditions and other opportunities. If you’re pushing them to audition, it’s unlikely they really have the desire to do it — and no one wants to see a child struggle tearfully through an audition they’ve only attempted for the sake of pleasing a stage parent.

— Lynn

Note: If you’re a performing arts professional or young performer with audition tips to share, please comment below to let our readers know.

Coming up: Art meets the Americas, Moms who “Munch”


Acting pros share audition tips for kids.

Anthem tales

I met a 12-year-old named Sarah Miller, and her mother Ruth, during intermission for Tuesday night’s performance of “Mamma Mia!” at ASU Gammage

I was delighted to learn that Sarah has performed in several community theater productions in Anthem, where she lives and plans to attend The Caepe School come fall.

I spoke with Sarah by phone Wednesday evening, after she’d finished a dance class with Dynamic Motion Dance Academy in Anthem — where she studies jazz, musical theater and tap. She’s also trained in ballet and hip hop.

I spotted Sarah in the huge “Mamma Mia!” crowd thanks to her powder blue t-shirt with a large “Mamma Mia!” logo. Although Sarah told me she loves the show, she was most eager to talk about her hometown theaters — Starlight Community Theater and Musical Theatre of Anthem.

Sarah has performed in several Starlight Community Theater productions — including “Beauty and the Beast” and “Cinderella,” plus her very favorite piece of musical theater — “Annie.” Sarah’s last “Starlight” role was “Tweedle Dum” in “Alice in Wonderland.”

Both Starlight and MTA of Anthem feature performances by and for youth

She’s excited about Starlight’s 2011/12 season, which includes “Willy Wonka,” “Miracle of 34th Street – The Musical,” “Fame!,” “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Rapunzel,” and “Once Upon a Mattress.”

Playwright and director Jim Gradillas, artistic director for Creative Stages Youth Theatre in Peoria, will be heading the “Rapunzel” production. Sarah praises Gradillas for working directly with each actor, for being a master at motivating kids to do their best, and for using games and other strategies to keep theater time fresh and fun.

So far Sarah has performed in just a single Musical Theatre of Anthem production — “The Wizard of Oz.” But she hopes to perform in more MTA shows down the road.

The 2011/12 lineup for Musical Theatre of Anthem includes “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.,” “13,” “Willy Wonka, Jr.,” “Seussical, Jr.,” and “Annie.” Sarah describes it as “a good selection” but already knows at least one show will conflict with other plans for the coming year.

Sarah is especially excited about auditioning for “Annie.” While she’d love to play the lead, Sarah told me that young actors have the best chance of getting major roles when they indicate a genuine willingness to accept any part they’re offered.

When I asked Sarah for additional audition tips for children and teens, she happily shared quite a few of them. Be present. Don’t act nervous. Make eye contact. Be easygoing. And most of all, don’t be fake. “Act like yourself,” suggests Sarah.

The approach seems to be working for Sarah, who shared that she’s already recording her singing and working with a producer at Island Def Jam Recordings.

She’d love to break into the music business or land an acting gig with Disney or Nickelodeon. She even shared this link to her performance of “I Could Have Danced All Night.”

Whatever the future holds for Sarah, it’s clear that her time on Anthem stages is serving her well — and that the memories she’s making right here in the Valley will last a lifetime.

— Lynn

Note: Visit the websites for Musical Theatre of Anthem and Starlight Community Theater to learn about current productions and summer programs. And watch for a photo of Sarah coming soon…

Coming up: Transformers — opera style, New plays — festival style

Update: An open call audition for the roles of Annie and the orphans in a new Broadway production of “Annie” is taking place June 12 for girls ages 6-12. Click here for details.

Ballet boys

 
Daniel Russell (Billy) and Maximilien A. Baud (Older Billy) perform in “Billy Elliot” (Photo: Kyle Froman)

David Hallberg, principal with American Ballet Theatre in New York, is considered by many one of our country’s greatest male dancers — and is known the world over for the beauty of his ballet performance.

Hallberg hails from Rapid City, South Dakota — but trained during his teens with Kee Juan Han at Arizona Ballet School in Phoenix. My daughter Lizabeth was among the school’s younger students at the time, so we had the pleasure of seeing him dance in studio and on stage.

Hallberg’s talent has taken him to Paris, Russia, Sweden, Japan, Buenos Aires and beyond. Parents who dream only of little boys becoming baseball legends might want to expand their horizons. Because boys who ballet are every bit as athletic. And artistic to boot.

Valley families can enjoy some time with boys who ballet next week as the touring production of the Broadway musical “Billy Elliot The Musical” comes to ASU Gammage in Tempe. It’s a fun-for-all-ages show about a boy’s search for identity and acceptance.

Billy loves to dance. But the other sons of men working in the local coal mine prefer boxing to ballet. So how do father and son come to terms with Billy’s dreams and his father’s choices? How do they reconcile individual wants with collective needs?

It’s a powerful musical that every parent should see. Because, as those of us with teens or young adults know all too well, our children rarely follow the paths we’ve worked so hard to pave for them. And their journey changes us no less than it changes them.

Ib Andersen, artistic director for Ballet Arizona, began his ballet training at the age of seven with the School of the Royal Danish Ballet — and went on to dance in works created by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and many others. He’s renowned the world over as both dancer and choreographer.

You can enjoy a bit of his work next week as well — as Ballet Arizona performs “Mosaik” April 28-May 1 at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix. “Mosaik” is a non-narrative ballet set to the music of Chopin, Berlioz, Schubert and more.

“Mosaik” features choreography, costumes and set design by Andersen. I saw the work performed by Ballet Arizona many years ago, and was simply stunned by the beauty of Andersen’s sculptural offering. It’s rare to enjoy such a close coupling of exquisite dance and visual artistry, making this one of my favorite Andersen works.

Take your little boys, and your little girls too. You never know when brief moments spent at the ballet or a Broadway musical might spark a lifetime of beauty and brilliance.

— Lynn

Note: “Billy Elliot The Musical,” based on the film “Billy Elliot,” features a score by Elton John. The musical received 10 Tony Awards in 2009 — including “Best Musical.” It’s recommended for ages 8 + due to strong language and confrontations between police officers and miners. Click here to learn about auditions for the role of Billy Elliot.

Coming up: Conversations with “Cosette”