Words of Wisdom from Liz Callaway: Audition Insights and Vocal Guidance

Drew Lane shares his notes from a session with Broadway star Liz Callaway. 

Last year, during the Festival of Broadway, the amazing Liz Callaway (voice of Anya in Anastasia, Broadway star and recording artist) gave a singing masterclass for a group of singers, which myself and other guests were allowed to sit in on.  It was an amazing experience. Ms Callaway was extremely humble and insightful in her comments.

I stumbled across my notes from that session and thought it may be useful to put them here for you all to glean something from! These notes are very much about the performance of a singer and also the audition process.

1) Make a strong choice for who you’re singing the song for – have a focus, either in the audience or on stage.

2) Talk to the audition pianist first and then introduce yourself. Speak clearly.

3) Don’t ‘drift’ in your movement while singing. Stillness has a lot of power.

4) If the key of the song is wrong for you, change it.  But make sure the pianist is able to follow the change – rewrite the music in the new key or write the chords in the new key.

5) Don’t be afraid to throw out the rule book – surprise us!

6) What is it that makes you unique?

7) Don’t mess with good writing, and learn to know what is good and what isn’t.

8) Don’t be vague in your singing – be as specific as possible.

9) If you’re singing the same (or similar) lyric, make it different each time.  Find the different thoughts. Why do you repeat the lyric?

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10) Don’t ‘oversing’. Don’t be afraid just to speak it.

11) Sing the correct rhythm of the song first, before thinking of changing it. There’s usually a reason it’s written that way.

12) Think about subtext. Don’t get lulled into pretty happy music. But don’t put subtext on the surface. Don’t sing a sad song, but have the sadness underneath.

13) If you don’t know what the song is about, don’t sing it.  You need to know where it’s coming from.

14) You age and maturity needs to match the level in the song.

15) Embrace what you’re good/castable as

16) Don’t make your gestures more interesting than you and your acting.

17) Don’t break musical thoughts in half, act through musical breaks.

18) Don’t wait until you start singing to start acting.

19) Make sure your diction is clear. Don’t get caught up in singing vowels.

20) Don’t be afraid to be crass or unclassy if the song calls for it. Enjoy it!

There’s 20 great points there and I hope you got something out of it! As always, leave a comment!

Until next time,
Blog ya later.

Photo by: LifeSupercharger 


Andrew “Drew” Lane was born in Melbourne, and began playing piano at the age of four. At age 15, he began to write his own material, and was also introduced to musical theatre via shows such as Starlight Express, Les Miserables and Time. From that moment on, Drew was actively involved in musical theatre at a rehearsal pianist, musical director, or on stage performer. In 1992, Drew composed his first musical for high school, Back Streets, and in 1994, Drew was accepted into the Ballarat Academy of Performing Arts, where he honed his skills, not only as a composer, but also as a performer. Gaining valuable experience on stage and behind the scenes helped him to realise his next musical, Atlantis. A workshop production was staged for the Ballarat Opera Festival in 1996 and gained rave reviews. In the following years, Drew took up teaching but was also able to regularly composer and stage his own productions including Eva’s Wish (1997, Anacortes, WA, USA), Revelations (1998, Touring, Victoria, Australia), and Toys (1999, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia). In 2010, Drew's musical Marking Life was chosen to be part of the Festival of Broadway, hosted by the University of Tasmania, and was performed for Steven Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, Pippin). A prolific composer, Drew hopes to be able to take his musicals to Off-Broadway or the West End, and believes that his best writing is yet to come. He is presently completing his Master’s degree in Performing Arts, and has several new musicals presently in development. Drew is proud to be a regular contributor to AussieTheatre.com and looks forward to hearing from all of his readers!

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