August 24, 2006

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Nashua Publisher's Note: Who’s to judge? Me!
By Jeff Rapsis

In Sunday school at St. Stanislaus Church, I was taught to “judge not, lest ye be judged.” So that’s why I felt a little guilty being a member of the audition board for the upcoming Actorsingers production of the musical Evita.

There I was, sitting at a table in an upstairs room at Actorsingers Hall on Lake Street, watching a steady parade of hopefuls sing songs and recite monologues.

The auditioners then returned in groups of five to do a brief dance routine. I sat with a half dozen other folks, taking notes and evaluating the person’s suitability for the show.

And so it went last Sunday and Monday, as a directing team led by Scott Severance and a few “outsiders” (like me) formed the audition board for Evita.

If you’re curious about how performers get chosen for local productions, here’s how Actorsingers does it.

First, about the show: Evita, the late ’70s Andrew Lloyd Webber / Tim Rice musical about Eva Peron, the first wife of Argentinian dictator Juan Peron, will be performed in November over two weekends at Keefe Auditorium. The musical, as well as the directing team, was selected earlier by committees.

The Evita that Severance envisions, the first ever in Nashua, will require about 40 cast members. But Severance, music director Jeff Prescott and choreographer Tina Cassidy can’t just select their friends. Actorsingers has an established audition procedure designed to ensure that all potential cast members are treated equally and judged according to their suitability for the part.

To achieve that, the group requires auditions to be held before a board made up of the directing team plus others, at least one of whom must be a non-Actorsingers member. (That’s where I came in!) Evita has five main roles, each of which is fairly demanding in its own way.

With Severance setting the pace, auditioners first sang a song to show their vocal range and quality. For accompaniment, they brought sheet music, which the audition pianist—an absurdly talented young man named John Carey—played for them at sight.

Hopefuls ranged from trained singers to inexperienced folks trying out on a lark. But everyone got through their music.

Most performers chose dramatic monologues designed to show off their acting chops. This often meant outraged speeches dealing with serious personal issues or tragedy or grief. After a dozen in a row, it began to add up. Severance, sensing this, broke the tension by sobbing after one woman’s performance.

By the first dozen performers, the directing team has acceptable candidates for all five main roles. That was great, because at least the pressure is off. But now a different concern emerged—namely, where is everyone?

As we waited Sunday night, Severance began to worry about being able to get the cast of 40. In the end, 16 people tried out the first night, virtually all of whom could make it into the show.

But at least of few of the auditioners will not accept an ensemble part if a lead isn’t offered, which will cut down the numbers a bit.

So, what happened? Did Severance get his cast? Come see Evita in November and find out. And me? My next performance will be saying the Hail Mary a dozen times in church after confessing all this sinful behavior.


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