Let’s start by saying every school, every article, every agent, every CD, every workshop – you’re going to hear something different about Rep Folders.
My Rep Folder from Mountview had something like 15 categories and three songs (uptempo, ballad, character) in each category. Ain’t nobody got time for that! There’s a wide range of ideas out there on what should be in your folder. My suggestions are based on what my clients are asked for most in auditions.
A decent Rep Folder is probably about an hours worth of music, you should have a piano backing track for every song (online-md.co.uk is cheap, fast and who I always used) and in an ideal world you should have a sing through of it every day. I think a basic rep folder for West End musical theatre should contain 14/15 songs and these are good starting points.
ONE SONG in EACH Category
TWO SONGS in the starred Categories.
Self-explanatory. Two songs, preferably one uptempo and one ballad from anywhere in the Sondheim canon. Avoid the overused ones! Sondheim is nearly always asked for specifically. I probably wouldn’t recommend taking Sondheim unless it has been asked for.
CONTEMPORARY BRITISH MT (2000 – present)*
Contemporary means contemporary! It means THIS century. I’d go so far as to say it really means the last ten years, but we’ll allow this century. Two songs. It used to be one uptempo and one ballad, but I think one pop/rock MT and one more traditional MT song does the trick.
CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN MT (2007 – present)*
Now, here I’m deviating a little in what I mean by contemporary. The trouble with going too far back in the American canon is that it’s only really since the advent of streaming services (Spotify launched in 2008) that we’ve had easy access to American MT. Prior to that a show had to be really, really well known to get to us over here (or you had to be a real MT geek) so most stuff from pre-2007 is either horrendously overdone or pretty obscure. For safety, keep your Contemporary American MT to the last ten years. Again, one pop/rock and one traditional MT should do the trick.
LEGIT MT (US or British pre 1960)*
Legit/Golden Age/Classical MT – Rodgers & Hammerstein, Rodgers & Hart, etc. Lerner & Lowe – you get the picture. We’re talking old movie musicals, we’re talking MT standards. Everyone should be able to sing in the Legit style in my opinion, and everyone should have a couple of songs from the period. Ballad and uptempo/character in this category. Remember legit MT usually requires a legit vocal quality.
To be honest, I’m not 100% certain I know what this even means, but I hear it more and more often. I’d say it’s a style thing rather than a specific period, although of course, contemporary means contemporary! I think it refers to anything written this century that is written in the old style of musical theatre – so not necessarily requiring a ‘legit’ sound, but a musical that is written in the legit style – so definitely not pop, rock or jukebox. Some Stiles & Drewe fits this, stuff like Gentlemen’s Guide, Maury Yeston, etc. There’s obviously cross-over here with contemporary MT, which is why I think just the ONE song in this category is fine.
This is a separate category. Often when you’re asked for Pop/Rock it doesn’t mean MT, it means a pop or rock song. You can often get away with a Jukebox Musical here, which is why I don’t think you should have a Jukebox Musical in your Contemporary Sections. When we get asked to tell you to bring a pop/rock song it usually also comes with the advice “No MT!”
One jazz standard. Always useful, pops up every now and again.
Rarely, very rarely, you’ll be asked for a Classical song. It’s worth having one in your folder and giving it a good dust off every so often. This doesn’t have to be Wagner. You can have some Light Operetta here, maybe some Gilbert & Sullivan. It’s rare, but you should have one.
You should have at least one song you can sing a cappella. That’s a song written to be sung a cappella rather than something you just forgot the sheet music for.
Increasingly we’re being asked for this. Yes, yes, this could come under your A Cappella section, but with more and more folk musicals in the making it’s a good call to have one of these up your sleeve.
This is your Go-To section. This is where you put those songs that, sadly, seem to make up most people’s entire rep folder – your good old favourites, the ones you’ve been singing forever, that don’t quite fit in any category, but you love them, and hey they’ve worked for you for before. This is the section you should go-to when you haven’t been given any specific instructions or when the audition is tomorrow!
When you’re asked for “Songs in the style of the show” – they don’t mean ‘style of the character’ – they mean the musical style of the show. “I took Lady Gaga’s Do What You Want to my audition for Fantine because it’s about prostituting your body” is wrong, wrong WRONG. Obvs. that’s an extreme example (I hope!) but you get the point – they want a song in the MUSICAL style of the show. The Internet is your friend guys. Type “Musicals similar to Les Mis” and you’ll have a range of suggestions. Then listen to a few, see which ones sound a bit ‘Les Mis-y’ to you, and there you go.
Your rep folder should, like your headshot and your CV, reflect your personality and casting type. I love looking through a rep folder – the choices someone has made often tell me a bit about them. When I’m looking at a quirky, characterful young baritone whose rep folder is filled with leading man songs, it can sometimes make me wonder whether they completely understand their casting type. Ideally, each song in your rep folder should feel as if it was written specifically for your personality, rather than just for your voice type. Of course, every song should show off your voice, but you should be choosing songs that match your personality and casting as well.
I think a good mantra for your West End rep folder is “known but not too overdone” but others would disagree. In the end, you want to have choices that show off your voice, range and personality to the very best of your ability.