Special Reports

The 6 Best Audition Songs for Women

Here are 6 numbers to help you get noticed in an audition.

Cast members from the recent New York City Center production of A Chorus Line hold up their headshots.
Cast members from the recent New York City Center production of A Chorus Line hold up their headshots.
(© Joan Marcus)

Whether you're auditioning for the school musical, or attending your first casting call on Broadway, you're going to need an audition song. Every performer and every role is unique, so each audition calls for a tailored approach. The primary objective is to show off your strengths as they apply to the gig in the limited time you have. That said, here are six very different songs that, if they fit for you and the show, can really make an impression in the audition room.

1. "Around the World" from Grey Gardens
The contrast between the tempestuously angry verse and heartbreakingly sweet chorus of this Scott Frankel-Michael Korie number gives the performer an opportunity to show off both acting range and shimmering soprano vocals. Grey Gardens is based on the iconic Maysles Brothers documentary about a mother and daughter living in a crumbling mansion in East Hampton, New York, and "Around the World" comes at a moment when Little Edie (the daughter) retreats to the attic to be around her memorabilia and vent her frustration about her mother. As you'll notice from Christine Ebersole (who originated the role), Little Edie speaks in an antique patrician Long Island accent, so if you're a whiz at dialects, that's also something you can reveal with this song.

2. "I Cain't Say No" from Oklahoma!
Acting is all about saying, "Yes, and," so why not signal your can-do spirit with this song about an inability to say "no"? Sung by the delightfully spunky Ado Annie in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, ''I Cain't Say No" is a bouncy number that leaves ample room for comedy. Check out the way Oklahoma native Kristin Chenoweth is able to slyly comment on the lyrics in her performance above. As Ali Stroker (who played Ado Annie in the recent, and Broadway-bound, St. Ann's Warehouse production) recently showed, this song about female sexual agency can feel awfully modern for a tune written in 1943. Like all great dramatic material, "I Cain't Say No" has the ability to mold itself to the idiosyncrasies of the performer, making it a great way for a new performer to introduce herself.

3. "I Believe in Love" from Hair
This up-tempo number from Hair is sung by the irrepressibly optimistic Sheila Franklin, and while the bulk of its lyrics consist of repeating the same four words, Galt MacDermot's versatile music gives the singer latitude to personalize the song with runs and glory notes (as demonstrated by the insane Shoshana Bean rendition above). Literally, your voice is the limit, making this a great number to show off everything you've got. And since a tailored arrangement can easily come in under a minute, you can probably get away with performing the whole thing, depending on the audition format. Convince them that you believe in love, and they'll believe in you.

4. "Getting Married Today" from Company
If daring runs and glory notes aren't really your style, try this classic patter song from Stephen Sondheim's Company. It stays in a comfortable alto range, but with eight notes per measure delivered presto agitato, it's by no means easy. Not only do you need pristine diction to land "Getting Married Today," but you need to really get in touch with your inner neurotic mess and make it hilarious (see Carol Burnett above). A complete verse and refrain is controlled chaos in 20 bars, and if you show a casting director you can do that, they'll know you're a solid choice for a slew of character roles. A word of caution, however, that applies to most Sondheim songs: Be kind to your accompanist, because you're asking a lot here.

5. "You'll Never Walk Alone" from Carousel
This rousing second act anthem of hope emerging from the darkness is a favorite of opera divas like Renée Fleming (above) and soccer fans alike, and when performed well, it has the power to make even the coldest casting director a little verklempt. Written for the mezzo-soprano role of Nettie Fowler in Carousel, it ranges up to a famously treacherous high G — but nail that and you're sure to impress. This is a great number to show off legitimate vocal prowess and tearjerking acting ability.

6. "Creep" by Radiohead
This Radiohead power ballad might seem like an unorthodox choice for an audition since it doesn't come from the musical theater songbook, but it has increasingly become a staple of nightclub acts. And it's easy to see why: With its themes of obsession and self-loathing, it lends itself to emotional performances. Not only is this a song you can act the crap out of, but the operatic flourish of the bridge gives vocalists the chance to really wail. If you're auditioning for Rent or Wicked, you're not going to want to sing something from Rodgers and Hammerstein — but you just might want to sing "Creep." This has the potential to be a winning audition song for both men and women, and to prove it, we've featured the American Idol rendition by drag performer Ada Vox above. When everyone else is singing songs from Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen, this is the kind of song that can get you noticed.