I'm auditioning for the recast of SOUTH PACIFIC in Australia. It’s a quarter to four; that deadly time in the audition panel’s afternoon where the mind starts to wonder, the jet-lagged director starts to fade or the quickly scoffed lunch begins to repeat. The moment when you long for a memorable auditionee to walk into the room and hopefully blow your socks off and in doing so, also blow the cobwebs away for the remaining two hours. Around this time, I aim to schedule auditionees whom I can be assured will pep us all up; someone who’s talent is sure to be remembered and will re-energise the weary panel.
There’s a great joy in auditioning in a country where you don’t know all the artists coming in. Although I’ve scoured their CV’s in the same way as I would in the UK, the significant factor of not knowing what you’re going to get is exciting, particularly in Australia where the standard of professionalism and work ethic has always impressed me.
So, just as we’re flagging, this particular Bondi-bronzed chap comes in all excited, shakes our hands vigorously, and having danced for us that morning with great energy and commitment, thanks us for the fun morning he’s already had with us and swears (literally) that he loves the South Pacific. Impressive, I think; fun guy, right energy (if not a little over the top) and positive. I ask him to sing his prepared Nothin' Like A Dame and inform him that we’ll be recording his audition to send to the director in New York for final approvals. He gives a cheeky ‘thumbs up’ to camera which makes us laugh. All going good; I’m liking this kid and start to see where he could fit in the show.
Then it all goes wrong. It’s not really about the fact he’s completely tone deaf – (lying on a CV is not a crime, just a waste of everyone’s time). Nor that only about 15% of the lyrics are Oscar Hammerstein’s.
It’s the fact that he has absolutely no knowledge or understanding of the musical he’s auditioning for.
He starts with what I can only describe as a verse of ‘gangster Hammerstein rap’ accompanied by his own Gangnam style choreography. On the chorus, a hand cups one ear whilst the other hand attempts to ‘scratch’ an invisible turntable. In the lead up to the final chord during the musical rests, he claps his hands and slaps his thighs in a way which would not look out of place in an explicit production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
After an excruciatingly long (and terribly flat) final note, he looks at the open-mouthed panel and announces that he sings much better in the key of ‘baritone’ but that we only have it in the key of ‘tenor’.
I politely tell him that the key is not really where the problem lies (as any key, I suspect, would defeat him) and ask him if he knows when South Pacific was written.
The correct answer would have been 1949, long before Puff Daddy and Snoop Dog. Does he know where and when the musical is set?
‘On a Pacific Island in the Second World War.’
NO! Absolutely not 'cool' at all! Given the amount of time I suspect he spends online, surely a quick trip to Wikipedia would have guided him. Or even Utube, where there are numerous videos of the show. There’s even the exact staging of our production’s Nothin' Like A Dame; his audition song.
It’s bad enough coming into the audition room without having fully learnt lines, songs, dialogue, knowing who the director is, etc. But not even knowing what show your coming in for is inexcusable. And with today's technology, it's so easy to spend a short while finding out.
That said, I shall remember this chap, who truly woke us up, forever.....