“I want to be on Broadway!” How many of you have ever said something along those lines? And how many of you are really doing what it takes to make it?
It is easy to attend a Broadway performance and be completely inspired by one of the actors or actresses on stage – their beauty, their elegance, their crisp dance moves, their effortless voices. Seems simple. I mean fame is just a matter being in the right place at the right time, right? In all honesty, yes. Luck is a part of it. But what about the other part? What about the talent? The drive? The skill? It can all be achieved through practice.
Practice makes progress– I say progress because no one is perfect. Our goal here is not perfection. It is to be better than you were the day before. It seems we could apply this to multiple aspects of our lives, and especially to multiple aspects of the entertainment business. Just think of what it takes to be a star on the Great White Way. Gone are the days of the ‘Triple Threat’. Now you may be asked to be a ‘Quadruple Threat’- an actor, singer, dancer, and instrumental musician. “So you’re telling me I have to be equally as talented in four skills now?” Yes, maybe.
So, practice. Practice for progress. Let’s start with your voice. Are you versatile in legit singing, belting, and pop/rock? And beyond that, can you sing these styles eight times a week with no problem? Nowadays singers who want to be considered for multiple roles must be able to achieve vocal greatness in multiple genres. Find an established voice teacher. Technique is so important to maintaining a healthy sound. Singing is all about muscle memory. Don’t make those poor little muscles work extra hard because you haven’t. Work with your teacher to develop a solid foundation that will allow you to feel comfortable on stage. Often you will be doing other movements while you are singing, so good technique is essential. And of course, practice, practice, practice.
Speaking of movements, if you haven’t taken a dance class, now is the time to do so. It’s never too late to start. From the Golden Age to now, dance has been an integral part of musical theatre. Perhaps start with a ballet class. Many choreography directions are often given from ballet terms. This could make your next dance audition a little less intimidating. From there, see if you can pick up a jazz, contemporary, or hip-hop class. And yes, make sure you continue to practice. On top of the progress you’re making, it’s also a great workout!
So, which is more important- the acting or the singing? Both. No one wants to watch an emotionless singer and no one wants to listen to an actor with a sub-par voice. If you find your acting to be on the weaker side, take a class. Find a workshop. Learn how to adjust your movements to the style, age, and characteristics of the role. Trust your emotional response to the music. Allow your movement and expression to be free, yet controlled. Do some visual research and watch some of your favorite actors. We can often learn from those we look up to. And if you haven’t caught on…practice, practice, practice.
Although it is not certainly “required”, if you want to be considered a ‘quadruple threat’, learn a musical instrument. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Sweeney Todd, Once, and Jersey Boys are just a few shows that require some characters to play an instrument on stage. If you have a background in piano, guitar, violin or any other instrument, keep it up. And of course, it is never too late to start learning a new instrument.
No matter what your profession, there is no perfection, just motivation. That motivation will give you the drive to succeed and to continue to progress your given craft. In this business you will probably hear a thousand “no’s” before you hear one “yes”. That’s ok. If you put your energy into what you truly love, it won’t feel like work. Just remember this- strive for perfection, but never remain fully satisfied. There is always someone better than you and there is always something to improve upon.