TAKING ADVANTAGE OF YOUR OPPORTUNITIES

les-miserables-musical-posterWhen I was writing last month’s post I was reminded of a story about my lovely bride, Marsha Mercant, and her audition for the sit-down company of Les Miserables in Los Angeles a number of years ago.

A little history first. Five years before the Les Mis audition Marsha auditioned for Cats—also in Los Angeles. She didn’t know any of the players – Cameron Mackintosh (producer), or Trevor Nunn (director), or Vinnie Liff or Andy Zerman (the casting directors). She sang and danced for them and they liked her. She then had not one, not two, not three but six callbacks before being cast in the role of Jenny anydots. During those auditions Marsha did something very clever — at each callback she wore something cat like: a T-shirt with a picture of a cat on it, leopard tights, something with a cat theme each time she went in.

Marsha and Jenny anydots

Marsha and Jenny anydots

The show, also a sit-down company, ran for two years at the Shubert Theatre in Century City. But that’s a different story.

Flash forward two and a half years. Cats has closed but Les Mis is getting ready to come to LA. This time, because Marsha had done Cats, she knew all the players and they all knew her. She also knew she wasn’t going to get called in for the initial auditions but only for the final, final callback. Which meant she was only going to get one shot in the room to show her stuff, one shot at getting the role she wanted — Mme. Thenardier.

So, she hired the Emmy Award winning composer John Kavanaugh to arrange a specialty number she would sing and she got Barbara Epstein (an internationally renowned musical theatre director) to help her create the “characters” for the songs she would sing. The three of them worked many hours, rehearsing to make sure each moment, each note, each nuance was perfect.

Marsha as Mme. T.

Marsha as Mme. T.

Marsha also had the foresight to find out who was going to be in the room. This time JohnCaird and Trevor Nunn were co-directing. Richard Jay- Alexander was putting the company together and the casting directors Vinnie Liff and Andy Zerman were back to cast the show. Once she knew who the players were she made it a point to find out something interesting about each person, either something personal or professional, so she could banter with them in case the opportunity came up.

She nailed the audition and even though Kay Cole ended up getting the role of Mme. Thenardier, Marsha was her understudy and got to play the role scores of times during the year long run.

What’s important to remember in all of this is that Marsha knew she was only going to have one shot and she did everything she could to make sure that shot paid off.

My question to you is: how are you prepping for your auditions? As actors, so much of what happens in show business is out of your control. But how you audition, how you prepare, is something that is in your control. You may not be in a position to hire award winning coaches but make sure you’ve done everything in your power so when the opportunities do come your way you can take advantage of them.

PS Here’s what Marsha looks like most of the time!!MarshaMercant5834_LowRes_Final

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