Whether you’re auditioning for musicals, setting up your rep book, or just looking for some new songs to sing, it’s always a good idea to build up your musical theatre repertoire. And that’s why we’ve put together a step-by-step list on exactly how to do so.
Please note: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you choose to make a purchase through one of the following links, we may earn a small commission on the sale at no additional cost to you. See our disclosure for more info.
Step 1: Find out your vocal type
Before you start picking out songs to add to your “Book”, it’s beyond important to know the sweet spot that is your vocal range. So make sure to find a piano (even if it’s virtual➝) and go through this quick process to find your vocal range before continuing.
Step 2: Select a song from the “golden age”
The exact dates of the “golden age” of musical theatre are fuzzy, but many agree on the years between 1940 – 1959. Go through these golden age musicals, and pick a song that feels good on your voice.
Step 3: Pick out a “post-golden age” song
The “post-golden age” musicals are the ones that came out during the 1960s. They’re a bit more experiential than their golden age counterparts, and they vary a lot more in style. Go through these post-golden age musicals, and pick a song that reflects your own personal musical style preferences.
Step 4: Pick out a “pre-contemporary” song
At this point, musicals began turning into little balls of surprises. The 1970s-1990s were ripe with amazing musicals by legends such as Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber. And the 1980s were filled with huge epic musicals. There’s lots to choose from here. Pick a song from either the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s that speaks to you emotionally.
Step 5: Find a great contemporary song
Now we’re getting into the musicals that you probably know, love, and rock out to on a daily basis. This category includes anything that came out during or after the year 2000. However, for this category, stay away from musicals that were based on older films (such as Mary Poppins) and jukebox musicals (such as Beautiful). To keep things fresh and interesting, pick a contemporary song from the 2000s or 2010s that you don’t already know by heart.
Step 6: Select a character/comedic song
This is your chance to get silly! But make sure to only have one of these types of songs in your book. Try to pick out a character or comedic song that really suits your personality. And have fun with this!
Step 7: Pick out a non-musical theatre pop/rock song
Since contemporary musical theatre is so pop/rock heavy, you may notice that many casting calls request that you prepare a pop/rock song for the audition. Because of this, it’s important to already have one that’s ready to go in your rep book.
Step 8: Pick out a Walt Disney song
Due to the increasing number of Disney shows, it’s also going to be beneficial for you to have a polished Disney song in your back pocket. Play around with this one too, and choose a song that “sparks joy”.
Step 9: Pick out a Stephen Sondheim song
You’ve probably heard that you should “never sing Sondheim at an audition”. This is mostly true, but not always. And if you’re auditioning for a Sondheim show, you better have a prepared Sondheim audition song in your book. Because they might want to make sure you have the required chops to be a part of their show.
Step 10: And finally, select your special showcase song
This is your chance to shine! If you just happen to be great at something specific like opera, country, rock, or even yodeling, include that in your book! This might just give you the right edge or niche needed to move forward in a very competitive industry.
Looking for more? Check out these DIY Rep Books for EVERY vocal type!
In each of these DIY Rep Books, you’ll find hundreds of specially-chosen songs for each of the above nine categories. So you won’t have to do any of the research yourself! Just follow the link below to get started with building up your musical theatre repertoire.
How’s your musical theatre repertoire looking?
Or have you just now gotten motivated to start building up your musical theatre rep book? Let us know how it’s going in the comments below!
Author: Stacy Karyn
Stacy Karyn is the founder of Theatre Trip, author of The Thespian’s Bucket List, and creator of The Cast Album List. She has a TESOL drama certificate, a BA in theatre, and has worked and interned with Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters.