Music Theatre Performance

  • Stage performance
  • Performers on stage
  • Actors on stage
  • Performance on stage
  • Swing performance

“Actors coming out of the Western Michigan School of Theatre are certainly among the best and most sought-after students I have encountered during my 25 years of recruiting for three nationally ranked graduate programs. They are extremely talented, expertly trained, and fully prepared for the rigors of the next level of training.” —Jim Wise, Professor of Acting/MFA acting program, The Pennsylvania State University

Western Michigan University offers an intensive course of study in musical theatre performance that culminates with a BFA degree and the opportunity to showcase in New York City and Chicago for significant Agents and Casting Directors.  The program offers extensive professional training in all areas of acting, voice and dance.  The program endeavors to train actors who sing and dance.  In addition, students will participate in a two-year musical theatre performance workshop series of classes that synthesize the training into a marketable skill that students will utilize for their entire careers.  The focus of the program is preparing emerging talent to enter and compete in the Broadway market.
 
The course of study provides students the opportunity to receive four years of private vocal instruction, training in jazz, tap and ballet, three years of acting training, musicianship, as well as courses in the history of musical theatre, audition techniques, stagecraft, directing and numerous electives available only to MTP students as the only cross-departmental program in the School of Fine Arts (theatre, music and dance).
The Department of Theatre produces two or three musicals each year in a rotating repertoire that includes contemporary shows, traditional classics, dance based pieces and new and original works.  Students are also encouraged to audition for the Theatre Department’s straight shows and the student directed footlight series, as well as the School of Music’s operas and the Department of Dance’s concert series.
 
Recent graduates of WMU’s MTP program are cast members in numerous Broadway and National Tour productions and include three-time Tony Award nominee Marin Mazzie (Kiss Me Kate, Ragtime, and Passion).  
 

Students should consult the WMU catalog for course requirements.

Preparing your audition

Audition format

The music theatre performance program is very competitive and a large number of auditionees are expected. All auditionees will be permitted to sing and perform their monologues, after which a decision may be made as to whether or not you will continue on to dance.

Candidates must perform 16 measures from each of two memorized songs. Be prepared to perform both songs in their entirety upon request. Both songs must be from Broadway literature—one ballad and one up-tempo—and should contrast in style. Music composed by Stephen Sondheim is not permitted. Bring music in the correct key and with cuts clearly marked. Taped accompaniment, a cappella singing or lead sheets are not permitted. An accompanist will be provided. Candidates will be taught a dance combination at the audition. Dance attire is required (leotards, tights or dance pants; jazz shoes, soft-soled tennis shoes or bare feet). Candidates will perform one memorized monologue of one minute in length chosen from a play written within the last fifty years and relating to the applicant’s own age and life-experience. Candidates will also be required to take a music theory exam to determine placement in music courses.

There will only be one audition for entrance into the music theatre performance program. Should a music theatre performance candidate not gain entrance to the program through their initial audition, a second audition would only be possible by invitation from the Director of Music Theatre Performance.

Preparing your music

Have your score prepared before your audition. Mark the beginning and the ending of your selection clearly. Make sure your score is clean and easy to read. [Eraser marks and notes to yourself (i.e., breath marks, blocking, diction, etc.)] can be distracting to the accompanist. If your score is a copy, it is suggested that you mount it in a three-ring binder. This makes seeing and turning the pages easier for the accompanist. Make sure your selection is in the key in which you will perform it. Do not expect the accompanist to transpose it for you.

Audition checklist

Tips

When preparing your audition, be sure to use material that is within your age range, and understanding. It is always advised that you seek out coaching and work extensively on your audition. Wear clothing that is simple, professional and comfortable. Avoid material that is well beyond your age range or understanding or roles in which you would not feasibly be cast. Do not use costumes, dialects or props. A chair will be provided for you. Arrive early for auditions but be prepared to wait.

A monologue should show off who you are. Look for contemporary pieces with roles in your age range that you could be cast in today. We suggest that you avoid Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and Neil Simon. Look for contemporary playwrights. Novels and unpublished plays often have good monologues. It is also possible to find good monologues in movie scripts, but be careful, you don’t want to do something recognizable. Choosing the perfect monologue is no place to take shortcuts. This is your calling card and should be done with diligence and care. 

SAMPLE RESUME

Scholarships

The Department of Theatre makes annual awards of scholarships in several categories and for varying amounts. These are made in recognition of the variety of talents necessary for success in the performance, design, technical, stage management, and arts management areas of the theatre.

Explore Scholarships

Alumni

Alumni from the WMU Music Theatre Department have been seen on Broadway in West Side Story, Jersey Boys, Chicago, Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Shrek the Musical, Spamalot, The Wedding Singer, Wicked and Gypsy. Alumni have also been seen on national tours of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Drowsy Chaperone, Hairspray, MAMMA MIA!, Rent, Seussical the Musical, and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Our graduates can also be found at Cedar Point, Walt Disney World and on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. 

For further information on Department of Theatre majors or the minor, email Debra Gambino, academic advisor.