A day in the life of an audition panel judge

Picture: BBC
Picture: BBC

Auditions can be tough; I have partaken in a number of them myself and know just how nerve racking they can be.

First of all you have to prepare a significant amount of material prior to the audition then you have to battle the nerves to ensure you channel the adrenaline rushing through your body in a positive way.

However, this past weekend I saw it from a completely different perspective as I was one of five people who sat on the audition panel for the University of Glasgow Cecilian Society’s production of Jekyll & Hyde, which is taking place in February 2014. 

The reason I was on this panel is because I am musically directing the show which has a cast of over 70 people.

Now I have been in this situation before and have seen a plethora of auditions from people of all ages and abilities, but this weekend was different.

Jekyll & Hyde marks my 9th show with this particular theatre company, so I know the audition format inside out, yet I saw and realised many new things when watching over 70 people individually acting, singing and dancing in front of me.

So what did I discover?

1.       Nerves a-janglin’

I am being completely genuine when I say watching someone perform who is visibly nervous has to be one of the awkward and hardest things to endure.

You don’t want to see anyone struggle with nerves, or feel uncomfortable but unfortunately it is something I saw at times over the weekend.

If someone isn’t particularly great I didn’t care as much, but when someone who clearly has great vocal talent is shaking so much their singing is affected it is very frustrating.

Not only that, I feel bad for the person in question as they have a knowing look on their face as if to say:

 “I know my voice sounds like I am standing on a wobble board but I can’t help it!”

Luckily we still had a good amount of people that kept their nerves in check and had impressive auditions.

2.       Friendly Fire

What is the only thing worse than nervous auditionees; nervous auditonees who are your friends or worse still, your girlfriend.

Having been involved with the society for so long it is only natural I as well as my fellow production team members know many of those auditioning for parts.

You watch in hope that they do well and perform to their full potential.

I now realise how difficult years gone by must have been for my friends and girlfriend when the roles were reversed and they were watching me audition.

3.       Mind your Manners

The Cecilian Society has been around for over 60 years and part of what it makes it unique is its ‘open chorus policy.’

Basically this means that you could be tone deaf and have no coordination yet you can sing and dance in the show.

However, if you want a principal part you have to audition (which everyone is advised to do).

The main issue with this is that you do get some (only some!) people that are not particularly great auditioning.

Now, I personally think ‘open chorus’ is a great thing and gives opportunities to everyone.

On the contrary, it can be challenging to remain polite throughout the audition process.

I mean a few things by this, namely trying not to laugh if someone isn’t very good.

You see it on TV shows such as X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, when celebrity judges break down at some poor person’s weird or awful audition: I now understand.

I think out of all those on the panel, I was definitely the best at keeping it together; however there are times where it can be difficult.

This can be because someone sounds funny when they sing, when a person’s cockney accent sounds Spanish or Australian, or when their dancing looks like a rain dance.

However, it can also be purely down to nothing. It can just be you get an idea in your head, and the audition is generally good but you find yourself battling with the giggles.

Another thing is trying to be polite to those who are abrupt or rude to you.

Having to separate your personal opinion of someone and judge their performance impartially can be extremely difficult, but of course I am the model professional and managed with ease.*

Finally, by the time we were 20 auditions down I had noticed a pattern. When those auditioning were asked how they were, the response was usually:

 “Oh, not good I have a really bad cold, my range is usually much better but my voice is shot, I couldn’t find my lucky bow-tie…”

Okay so I may have made the last one up, but many people as a natural defence seem to say they are not well as they think it justifies any blips in their audition.

In reality it makes me think they are under-prepared, not going to be good enough or just wanting some pity.

Of course some people were genuinely ill, to which I commend them for auditioning, but many didn’t or had a hangover which does not count!

Appearing sympathetic to those who were ‘ill’ got harder as the weekend went on, but of course my superb acting ability got me through this.**

*Please note sarcasm.

**Please note further sarcasm.

4.       Food, Glorious Food

I came to the realisation that over the weekend, as I sat on my backside for the best part of twenty four hours, that I had consumed more junk food in that space of time than I have in the last six months.

I honestly don’t know how anyone who is a judge on a TV talent show is not obese judging by what we ate.

Crisps, chocolate, cake, pastry, biscuits, pretzels, fizzy juice; if it had sugar, high fat content or E numbers we had it.

By the time Saturday night came, we all had what was essentially a detox salad.

With all the junk food consumed whilst on the audition panel it begs the question:

“How is Simon Cowell’s belly not as big as his ego?”

5.       Casting

A major realisation came when trying to cast the show; it ain’t easy.

I always thought that after call back auditions production teams would see things the same way and that casting would be relatively obvious and therefore a foregone conclusion.

Boy I couldn’t have been more wrong.

People have personal taste, and this means conflicting opinions and that a great deal of discussion is required when choosing people, especially as we were blessed with so many talented people turning up to audition.

Casting three parts alone took us the best part of four hours, at which time the sun was beginning to rise and the birds were singing.

That said, after a great deal of deliberation we all agreed on a cast and now all that is left to do is announce the cast list!

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