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Published: Saturday, 10/3/2009

Hamlisch gives youths a tutorial on auditioning

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Composer and songwriter Marvin Hamlisch, left, critiques Elizabeth Romey, a junior at Springfield High School, one of three students who did an 'audition' at the Valentine Theatre tutorial session. Pianist Chris Henke, center, of Toledo, accompanied the young singers. Forty-eight students from throughout the area attended the tutorial. Composer and songwriter Marvin Hamlisch, left, critiques Elizabeth Romey, a junior at Springfield High School, one of three students who did an 'audition' at the Valentine Theatre tutorial session. Pianist Chris Henke, center, of Toledo, accompanied the young singers. Forty-eight students from throughout the area attended the tutorial.
JETTA FRASER Enlarge

Take 48 Toledo-area high school singers with visions of starring in Broadway musicals.

Add legendary composer and songwriter Marvin Hamlisch.

What do you have?

A once-in-a-lifetime tutorial at the Valentine Theatre.

Mr. Hamlisch, the featured attraction of last night's From Broadway to Hollywood gala at the Valentine Theatre, spent his lunch hour yesterday giving the students a general overview of what they could encounter at a highly competitive audition for a role in a Broadway show in New York.

"In school, they can teach you a lot of things," Mr. Hamlisch said. "One of the things they don't teach is how to audition."

With those words, he was off imparting advice and telling students how the industry has changed.

"Don't waste your time if you're not good enough," he said, saying he was not on stage to mince words or offer false hope.

Also, accept the fact that everyone has songs that fit them and some that don't.

"There's no shame in that," Mr. Hamlisch said. "That's just the way it is."

While there's no sure-fire ticket to Broadway, you can pretty much forget about making it there if you're at all ambivalent, he said.

Most people who get on Broadway have such a burning passion for the performing arts that they feel they "would die if [they] don't get to sing and dance," Mr. Hamlisch said.

And in today's theater, it's important to learn how to both sing and dance.

If you're a singer, take dance lessons. If you're a dancer, learn how to sing. With budgets being what they are, performers are rarely hired just to do one or the other anymore, Mr. Hamlisch said.

People get, on average, 90 to 120 seconds to audition. Two hundred or more people audition for each show, meaning that you must take advantage of your time to shine.

"If you pick the wrong song, which a lot of people do, it's your fault," he said.

The highlight was a mock audition in which Mr. Hamlisch critiqued three young women in particular who had impressed area teachers with their warbler-like passion for song.

Those three were Elizabeth Romey, a junior at Springfield High School, and two students from Notre Dame Academy, Hayley Reynolds, a senior, and Megan Schlachter, a junior.

Mr. Hamlisch was brutally honest about their efforts, but he wasn't the only one.

The 45 others who weren't selected to go up on stage sat in the first few rows of the auditorium and joined him in critiquing the trio on anything from their body language to their vocal chops.

The Romey youth, who admitted to being nervous while up on stage, was the "guinea pig" because she went first, Mr. Hamlisch said.

The two Notre Dame girls had the advantage of seeing how she did before performing themselves.

The good news is all three made a positive impression on Mr. Hamlisch.

He had questioned the Romey youth's choice for one song and said she wasn't delivering it with enough power. He encouraged everyone to rehearse in front of a mirror to help overcome their shyness.

When the Romey teen returned to the stage, Mr. Hamlisch said she obviously took his advice to heart.

"That girl did a 180!" he told the audience.

Mr. Hamlisch encouraged Ms. Reynolds to project more, too.

"You have enough power in your voice not to hold back," he said.

He said he was particularly impressed with the Schlachter teen's vocal range and performance, because she "was actually in the part."

"You have a lot going for you," Mr. Hamlisch told her.

The three teens who performed each expressed an interest in musicals.

The Romey youth said she found Mr. Hamlisch's advice right on the mark for her and said, despite his bluntness, that he seemed "so human and helpful."

"I'm really thankful to have this experience," the Reynolds teen added.

The Schlachter youth said the event reinforced her desire to pursue a career in music. She said she found Mr. Hamlisch to be "real friendly."

Mr. Hamlisch encouraged everyone to get voice lessons, particularly people who have been told they're good. Far too often they don't reach their potential, he said.

Although it wasn't auditioning per se, the Valentine Theatre itself got kudos from Mr. Hamlisch.

"You have one of the prettiest theaters I've ever seen in my life," he said as he wrapped up the event.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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