You should always play to your strengths in an audition. You can pick your repertoire, hair style and shoes. You can control these aspects of your appearance and strategize your performance in the audition. If you are going out for a musical, you cannot avoid singing with a piano.
Sounds obvious? As an accompanist for numerous auditions, there have been a handful of auditioning actors who try to sing a cappella. I cannot stress this enough: bad idea.
I played for a round of auditions recently and an actor came in to sing. No music. Just singing without the piano. Afterwards the casting director and I spoke about it; the casting director made it very clear he must dismiss any actor who does this. Why?
It shows a lack of preparation. It shows an unwillingness to work with the accompanist, whether that is intended or not. The casting director cannot invite the actor back to sing for the director. It’s a rookie mistake made by many seasoned actors, and I wish they wouldn’t make it.
When you audition, we need to see your abilities. We need to know you can sing along with a piano, which in turn tells us if you can sing along to an orchestra. When an actor comes to the piano with their music in hand, how they converse with me about their selection tells me volumes about them. Are they prepared? Are they musical?
I’m amazed by the number of actors who come in and say to me, “I don’t know how this sounds with the accompaniment,” or “I’ve never sung this with the accompaniment.” Do yourself a favor and hire a pianist to play through the music before the audition. You’re investing in your success.
I strongly encourage actors to have a game plan when they walk in the room. Know the people you’re auditioning for, and anything else you can about the character and show. Choosing not to sing with the accompaniment is ridiculous. Keep in mind, the accompanist is paid to be there whether they play or not. Might as well use him.