Megan Reinking’s Audition Advice

Here it is – the entry you’ve all been waiting for – a feature on MEGAN REINKING!



My freshman year of college, a group of friends and I made plans to see the movie “Billy Elliot.”  There was time to kill, so we ended up in the Border’s across the street from the theatre.  In this group of friends was a girl I didn’t know, but somehow we both ended up in the “Discover Your Past Lives” section of the book store.  (I think we were both aiming for the history section, since we are both history buffs, but got distracted.)  While reading about the “purple mists of time” we ended up not seeing “Billy Elliot” and became best friends instead.

The MARVELOUS woman I met was none other than the incomparable Megan Reinking – a girl with both a voice and a heart of gold!  Since this blog is about “muscles for musicians,” I’ll spare you my dissertation on how incredible she is as a person and jump right on to her talents as a performer.   She is best known for her powerful high belt (which some have called the personification of fierce – see facebook group here ), but has a beautiful soprano voice as well.  What truly sets her apart is her acting ability.  She has the talent to truly “be” the character on stage, whether it’s a vampire (Lestat/Dracula), hippie (Hair), prohibition mistress (Boardwalk Empire), mother figure during World War II Germany (The People in the Picture), or cabaret singer (Les Enfants de Paris).  What perhaps few people know is she is actually an incredible dancer as well.   In her last Broadway show, “The People in the Picture,” in which she played Dobrisch, she totally held her own with some of Broadway’s best dancers!  Because she is a singer/actor who also has incredible dance skills, I thought she would have some valuable insight regarding the “singers who move” dance audition process.  I was right!  So without further ado – I’ll give the mic to the beautiful Megan Reinking!

Can you give us a little bit about your dance background?

I started dance lessons at the age of 3, ballet and tap. Later I added on jazz and lyrical as I got older. I majored in Musical Theatre in college at the University of Michigan, where I also took theatre dance. Overall, I have roughly 20 years of dance experience. However, I stopped training as a dancer when I moved to New York 8 years ago, though I do take the occasional class still. I decided to focus on my strengths, which were singing and acting as the degree of dance that I’ll be required to do as a singer/actor, I will always be able to do.

How has your approach to auditions changed over the years?

I’ve come to accept that I will *never* know or understand what a casting director is looking for. So I have stopped trying to BE whatever it is that I *think* they want. As far as dance, you can’t get into your head about it. You can’t suddenly become a better dancer than you were before you walked in the room. Same as with singing, your technique is what you had up until that point. The only thing…the ONLY thing you can worry about in the audition room is telling the story. Remind yourself this is THEATRE, first and foremost. If you can’t tell a story, it doesn’t matter how brilliant your pirouette is. You never know what they are looking for. When I did HAIR, they were specifically looking for people who moved like REAL people, not dancers…yet there was a dance call. My favorite people in dance auditions are the storytellers. Focus on that.


Where do you like to stand during auditions and why?

I like to start in the front. It doesn’t matter what your level is. Don’t let the other dancers get in your head. What matters is being able to see the CHOREOGRAPHER. You can’t learn the combination off of the other dancers because then you are learning -their- interpretation of the choreography. Stand wherever you need to so you can see the choreographer and try to learn it as best you can off of them. Musical Theatre is all about style, and you will only observe the correct style from the choreographer. Don’t trust the girl in the sexy unitard to have it right. Usually they will switch up the lines anyway, but not until they’ve taught a significant portion of the combination, at which point you WANT to be in the back so you have room to do the combination full out. Most people crowd up to the front and there are leagues of room in the back. This gives you an advantage when it counts, because you will have done it full out a bunch of times. I always try to be up front when it’s first taught, and then move to the back where no one else seems to want to be and do things full out.

Do you have any advice on picking up choreography quickly in auditions?

Usually combinations are taught in groups of 8-counts, or 16 counts. I focus on the transitions so they naturally flow for me. You will have already practiced each 8-count individually, so when you’re given those moments to review (choreographer is finding music, talking, or looking through headshots)…those transitions are what I practice so each section flows in my head and feels natural. I’m also a “counts” person…I learn by what counts each step is on as opposed to the music feel like a lot of choreographers use. But it helps me learn. If I know the counts, I won’t forget what comes on the next beat.


What do you do if you have having trouble picking up a combination or style?

Ask questions. They will always answer questions. Just ask them at the appropriate time.

Would you suggest asking the choreographer questions if you are having trouble in an audition? If so, what kind?

Absolutely!!!! If you’re having trouble, do NOT be shy about it. The time working with a choreographer is your time. They WANT you to get it right and be brilliant. Don’t stay silent and mess up and beat yourself up about it. Don’t stay silent and assume they will give you notes if you’re doing it wrong. The important thing is to BE SPECIFIC. Don’t ask general questions. If there is just one part that you couldn’t see when it was taught, or you’re confused on a count, or you are unclear where your arms are at a certain point, ask that. I usually wait until the combination has been taught and we’ve reviewed. I try to give myself time to get it myself and watch the choreographer for those specific details, to see if I can answer it myself. If it has varied (sometimes a choreographer will do arms different every time…this drives me NUTS)…I will ask. However, don’t BLAME the choreographer! (ie…”you’ve done it differently every time”). I always phrase it that it is ME that is unsure…and sometimes they won’t realize they were doing it differently and it will force them to set it. 


What was your most challenging audition and how did you conquer it?

Probably the AMERICAN IDIOT dance call. I felt like I had been hit by a truck afterwards. I actually injured myself, pulled my quad, in the audition and couldn’t walk for a week! There is a lot of violent movement in the audition combination, and specifically throwing yourself in the air to land on the ground. Honestly, I’m not sure I “conquered” it, but I threw myself into it 200%. I told myself…don’t be shy of the movement. Attack it. Figure out how to not bruise yourself when you GET the job. 

What do you do to stay in shape? What are you favorite things to do at the gym?

Recently I’ve taken to doing Bikram Yoga more than gym workouts. It’s greatly increased my strength and flexibility as well as joint health. But it has also had great impacts in my health overall in many other ways than simply staying in shape and losing weight. 

What is the best audition advice you have ever received?

Be yourself. Just do you. You can’t be anyone else. You can’t be whatever this nebulous idea you have about what you think “they” want. All you can do is bring yourself, your creativity, you unique thing to whatever it is you are doing. Only then will you do anything unique, brilliant, and TRUE in that room. And that is what they are looking for ultimately. They want to be moved…and truth is moving. No one else is you. The only way you will stand out is if you can learn to bring that into the room.


Any other words of wisdom?

The best thing I learned is to throw out the negativity. Rejection can kill you in this business. As long as you do everything you can to prepare before you go in that audition. If you can see the show, if you can listen to it, if you can go to the Lincoln Center Library and watch a past production of it, if you can watch the movie it’s based on, anything you can think of to prepare yourself, then you are READY.

You need to get out of your head and throw away your doubts. You need to remind yourself that you are equal to the task of the role you are aspiring to. You need to be WILLING.

You need to remind yourself that you are fully capable of accessing within yourself everything that is required of you in this role. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by it. You are ABLE.

That is my pre-audition…pre-performance mantra. You are Ready. You are Willing. And you are Able. There is nothing standing in your way. This is yours.

Your confidence in yourself is your most invaluable asset.

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If you want to know MORE about Megan as a performer you can read Broadwayworld.com’s Gypsy of the Month feature of her here!  

You can also see her in “Les Enfants de Paris” currently performing at NYMF!  This is a BEAUTIFUL new musical that is to “Notre Dame de Paris” what “West Side Story” is to “Romeo and Juliet.”  I was lucky enough to see a few readings of the musical before it reached NYMF, and let me tell you, the music is glorious and the book is so intelligent.  If you only see one NYMF show, make it “Les Enfants de Paris.”  If you’ve never seen a NYMF show, this is a great one to start with!  This is a publicity shot of Megan for the show!  If that doesn’t get you to buy a ticket, I don’t know what will!

Megan is also the current standby for the role of Dyanne in “Million Dollar Quartet.”

Annie’s Audition Advice

Ashley Anne Russ, who I know as Annie, is one of those incredibly luminous people who was born to dance.  Any audience would be lucky just to watch her take class, let alone sparkle on a stage.  


I met Annie back in the day when I was actually more of a director than a performer.  She auditioned for a show I was directing (choreographed by the brilliant Jeff Shade), nailed every aspect of the choreography, and was instantly cast.  Her work ethic makes choreographers and love working with her.  Her huge heart and giving spirit make dancers love working alongside of her.  Every time we audition together, I am astounded at how quickly she latches on to the choreographer’s style and executes the combination as though it were a final performance.  It is truly inspiring.  She is a true star inside and out, and Muscles for Musicians feels incredibly lucky that she was willing to share her audition experiences with us.   So without further ado, here is Annie’s audition advice!







Can you give us a little background your dance career?


I grew up in Chicago in more of a “concert dance” world. I was fortunate to get my jazz training at Gus Giordano, and I studied ballet in a studio my mom’s best friend owned. I would also take class at Lou Conte in the city on occasion. To further my training, I was accepted into ABT summer camp as well as three years with Chicago National Association of Dance Masters (CNADM). My first taste of musical theater was with Northstage Theater Company in Chicago where I connected with Rebecca Timms (former Broadway dancer turned choreographer). She got me an audition for West Virginia Public Theater which ended up being my first taste of summerstock (2 years in a row). Upon moving to the eastcoast, I attended SUNY Purchase Conservatory. Being so close to the city, I couldn’t resist the temptation to take the train into Manhattan for auditions. Needless to say, I didn’t last 4 years… I landed my first agent and immediately booked a show in the city. Since then, I haven’t stopped doing everything from regional work & tours, as well as international with Tokyo Disney.  I would consider myself a “theater jazz dancer”. While I am trained in everything from ballet, tap, contemporary, latin, etc. I am most comfortable in athletic movement that tells a clear story or emotion. 


How has your approach to auditions changed over the years?

My approach to auditions has changed over the years since I have learned to not put so much pressure on myself. I am an assistant to a director/choreographer which has put me on the “other side of the table” for auditions. Casting a show is like putting together a puzzle. 90% of the time when you walk in the room, they may only be looking for 1 or 2 specific tracks. You can be cut before even learning the combination because they are looking for someone 5’8″ or someone who sings the alto line. I’ve learned to just show up, do MY best, have a good time, treat it as a free dance class or a chance to meet new people and if I’m not the puzzle piece they are looking to fill…”onto the next!” 







Where do you like to stand during auditions and why?

I like to stand toward the center in auditions. I don’t always put myself right in the front because I want a full view of the choreographer, but I stand where I can see and have the most space to move. 


Do you have any advice on picking up choreography quickly at an audition?

I have always been a “fast learner”, so picking up choreography has never been a problem for me. I do find that saying the steps in my head as I’m doing them helps. 





What do you do if you are having trouble picking up a combination or style?

When it comes to style, I focus more on making the pictures and “less is more” to start. If it’s a style that doesn’t feel as comfortable in my body, I try and copy the shapes that the choreographer is making and allow my body to RELAX when making transitions. Feeling the music helps too.


Would you suggest asking the choreographer questions if you are having trouble in an audition? If so, what kind?

YES! Always ask questions and pay attention when other people ask questions too. There is nothing worse than asking a question that was just answered. When I am unsure of something I ask for clarification, ie. “Can you clarify this phrase—“, “Would you mind breaking down the steps before/after…”, …Be as professional as possible because how you ask a question says a lot about how you will be in a rehearsal setting. 


What was your most challenging audition and how did you conquer it? 

My most challenging audition was actually for the Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil tour. Like I said before, I am a theater jazz dancer…the hip-hop/pop stuff isn’t my forte. I felt completely out of my comfort zone. Instead of comparing myself to the other girls in the room and trying to be a carbon copy of the choreographer, I decided to learn the steps as well as I could…have fun…show my personality…and even learn a new way of moving. I didn’t get cut right away, but I didn’t make it to the final round either. I actually learned a lot from that audition because there were dancers in the room who moved exactly like MJ—it was incredible to watch. They were made for that particular show. However, if they were auditioning against me for a show that I am perfect for, the tables would be turned. 







Are there any classes you would recommend a non-dancer take to work on audition skills? 

Just take class and vary it up! The more you challenge your brain & body outside the audition room, the easier it gets. I recommend Jeff Shade, Lisa Harvie, Scott Thompson…they all teach a beginner level and are wonderful at mixing up styles. All three of them were once performers themselves, so they get where you are coming from. 





What is the best audition advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I can give is to just show up. There is a puzzle that everyone fits in. Don’t take anything personally, and don’t try and be someone you’re not. Judy Garland once said, “Always try and be the first rate version of yourself instead of the second rate version of someone else.” By trying to be what you think the people behind the table want may cost you a job you are perfect for further down the line… I’ve been called in for shows after being seen at a different audition. You may not be right for the show you are auditioning for, but you may be perfect for their next project! Have fun and do what you love to do!




Marisa’s Audition Advice

I first met the stunningly beautiful (inside AND out) Marisa Merliss while working on a production of “Fiddler on the Roof” with the Village Light Opera Group.  She was brought in as an assistant choreographer.  From the moment she stepped into the rehearsal room, she brought nothing but sunshine and happiness.  We had a huge cast which was comprised of performers ranging from six to eighty-six years old, most of non-dancers.  All needed to meet the challenge of executing the original Jerome Robbins choreography at a professional level, and yes this included the infamous bottle dance!  (Our brilliant director demanded nothing less than the best!)  Marisa was a true gift.   She attended every rehearsal, drilling the choreography with the cast and individually helping each performer with their technique, style, and emotional connection to the material.  Thanks to her hard work and expertise, the audience left the show saying that they couldn’t have seen better on Broadway.  She was asked to come in and do the same for the company’s production of “Carousel” this past spring.  While I was unable to attend, my friends who did all praised Marisa’s work above all compare.  In addition to her choreography/dance captain skills, Marisa is a gorgeous dancer and captivating performer.  Because of this,  I thought sharing her insight would be a beautiful way to start off the “Audition Advice” series of this blog.  So without further ado – here is MARISA MERLISS!

Can you give us a little background your dance career? ( where have you trained/worked, what would you say is your primary style)

I’ve been dancing since I was 3 and trained at the Hartford Conservatory, Atlanta Ballet, and currently take class at Steps, BDC and Peridance . Since graduation I’ve danced in several musicals, a few casino shows, and tons of dance industrials, concerts, and photoshoots. I’m currently the fit model for Capezio dancewear and am in the Off-Broadway Cabaret Show Erotic Broadway-Vintage Variety. I don’t really have a primary style at this point though theatre dance and tap are what I’m enjoying most these days.

How has your approach to auditions changed over the years?

I used to get so nervous and worked up at auditions. I would get hyperfocused on what the people behind the table where thinking and if I fit into their idea of what they were looking for, etc, etc. Now I tend to look at it as an opportunity to dance and perform, I walk in and have a good time. And if I get a job great, if not at least I had a fun day!

Where do you like to stand during auditions and why?
In the front close to the middle of the room. That way I’m seen, I can easily see what the choreographer is teaching and when it comes time to switch lines I can work out the choreography and screw it up, if need be, in a place where less people can see me.



Do you have any advice on picking up choreography quickly in auditions?

Stay IN THE ZONE and focus Focus FOCUS!!!!! Forget about the train delay that almost made you late for the audition, the fight you had with your boyfriend/girlfriend the night before, if you’ll be able to sublet your apt. if you get this job, blablablaaaaa…..keep what ever is weighing on your mind out of the audition room and out of your head. If there are a few steps you can’t get, even after you’ve asked the choreographer for help just focus on what you’re good at and figure out a way to get through it without drawing extra attention to your weaknesses. Don’t apologize in words or expression. Smile and perform with confidence, a lot of times choreographers really want to see if someone can pick up a style and perform rather than perfect every little step they threw at you in 10 minutes. Don’t sweat it, just go for it!

What do you do if you are having trouble picking up a combination or style? Would you suggest asking the choreographer questions if you are having trouble in an audition? If so, what kind?

If it’s a style issue I’ll pay close attention to the choreographers assistant since they are typically someone they have hired multiple times and who gets their style. Definitely ask a question if you need to, I wait for an appropriate moment and ask the choreographer or preferably the choreographer’s assistant. I also pay attention to the answers of the questions other people are asking. If the choreographer gives specific direction on a step, esp. one you asked a question about, do your best to execute that movement the way they directed you. Choreographers, just like directors, want to know that you are directable.




What was your most challenging audition and how did you conquer it? 

Hmmm…..I’ve had so many different kinds of challenging auditions it’s hard to choose. The first “challenging” audition that comes to mind was a dance agency audition about 4 years ago. I had been out of commission for 5 years due to severe injuries and multiple surgeries I had after having a terrible accident in a show I did. I was #622 on the sign in list and wanted to leave from the time I walked in the door. There were some really talented looking people covering every inch of the holding room and I remember feeling more intimidated than I was comfortable with. They brought us in the audition room in groups of 60 and taught the choreography so fast and I could barely see what was being taught through the sea of people. Then it was time to go and I thought to myself “ok, I can stress over getting half the steps and look like a fool or just go for it with the steps I’ve got, smile and enjoy the fact that I’m dancing again and hopefully look like a little less of a fool”. I did the latter and a week later I had a dance agent!



Are there any classes you would recommend a non-dancer take to work on audition skills? 

YES!!! Jim Cooney’s Beginner Theatre Dance Class at BDC is fantastic. If you want to focus in on Fosse Technique or learn choreography from shows Diana Laurenson at BDC/Steps is great. Jeff Shade has a great Beginner Theatre Dance Class at Steps which is so fun and creative, it helps you get out of your head and really enjoy “the dance” as he calls it! Find a good ballet class to work on your strength and I would recommend find a dancer friend and do a trade. Rent a studio, practice basic dance moves across the floor and work on specific choreography you may need to know for your auditions, then you help them on their audition songs or monologues. It’s a great free way for you both to boost your audition skills!

Lastly, you are an incredibly fit person, what sort of cross-training do you do to stay in shape? Is there anything you would especially suggest to singers?


Well first off, thank you! And secondly the best thing I think you can do is to find a couple or more workout that you enjoy or semi-enjoy doing. The best way to lose inches, tone, or if your at your optimal weight/size the best way to maintain it is to confuse your muscles. Change it up, don’t do the same thing every time you workout. I run a couple times a month but I can’t stand the treadmill or the eliptical so I picked up rollerblading and biking. Both of these activities are easier on your joints and less counterproductive to dancing. I also do pilates, occasionally yoga and I stretch every day. If you are into non-dance workout videos I really enjoy Rev Abs and Brazilian Butt Lift by Beachbody. I do a lot of workout video shoots and these programs were the ones I found to be most effective and fun.





Any other words of wisdom?

Hmm…..let’s see…..
Don’t offer to do anything in an audition that you don’t want to do 8 shows a week. If you’re worried about injuring yourself in an audition don’t be afraid to say no or walk out, jeopardizing your health is not worth it.
Find a way to enjoy the audition process and surround yourself with supportive positive people at auditions and more importantly in life!


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You can learn more about Marisa Merliss and her career by visiting her website.  You will see that in addition to being an incredible dancer, she is a kind giving spirit, who is intelligent (She’s a pediatric nurse!) and a national baton twirling champion!  You can currently see her in Erotic Broadway at the Triad at 158. West 72nd street!  

Audition Advice Preview

Since audition season is fast approaching, I wanted to do a series on audition advice!  It seemed to me that the most effective way of achieving this was to involve several of my dancing friends to share their words of wisdom about auditions.  All are incredible performers, and some are even teachers, choreographers, assistant choreographers, and dance captains.  It will be very exciting to get their insight from the other side of the table!  Be prepared for an audition advice extravaganza that will help you completely rock the movement/dance calls this coming season!

ZUMBA take 2!

Back in January, when I was still good about keeping this blog updated, I did a special on Danielle Pierce and her Zumba class – found HERE.

Tonight I actually took her Wednesday, 8 p.m. Zumba class at Steps on Broadway.  Because I had such a fabulous experience, I wanted to share it with all of you.  It is also my belief that all singers should get their butts into a zumba class as soon as possible.
So – without further ado – here was my Zumba experience.
I am a pretty darn fit person and have experience with a very diverse variety of dance techniques/classes. I went to zumba, feeling a little strange having sneakers on my feet and not character shoes and a bit apprehensive because rhythmic latin movements aren’t exactly my forte.  However, Miss Danielle immediately made me feel at ease by learning everyone’s name (magic memory skills) and ecouraging us to smile, have fun, and SING along to the music.  She then put on some latin music (the music, for the record ranged, from samba to bollywood to Glee to the golden oldies) and began to sing loudly, proudly, and incredibly joyfully off-key – which made everyone in the class (who ranged from professional dancers to students who were true beginners) feel free to make fools of themselves, let loose, and have fun both physically and vocally.
What sets Zumba apart from other dance classes for me is that you never stop moving. It is a true cardio workout!  Your legs and arms are constantly moving, be it fancy footwork, jumping, or gliding.  Without even knowing it, you are giving your core a massive workout just from coordinating your arms and legs together.  While there is certainly a Zumba technique, the class seems to be more about getting yourself moving – which makes it appropriately challenging for ANY level.  Professional dancers will get just as much of a workout as a movement novice.   Miss Danielle’s class has a wonderful mix of highs and lows, so you do get some breathing time.  Before this experience, I have taken a grand total of ONE Zumba class.  It was at a health club in Florida and there was no breathing time – it was all the highest energy jumping and samba-ing possible. It nearly killed me!  I definitely appreciated the mix of high energy and calm energy Miss Danielle provided.  More importantly – Miss Danielle creates a completely judgement free environment where she runs around the room dancing with and high fiving her students.  We even did a conga line at the end of class!  I can’t remember a time I smiled so much during a class!  
While it’s not necessarily movement you will directly use in an audition or choreography for a show, it is invaluable for the cardiovascular workout it gives you AND simply getting you moving, accustomed to shifting weight, standing on one leg, and jumping.  If you are IN a show, you will appreciate this – as dancing through a whole number is far different than the 48 count snippet they give you in a jazz class.  Since Miss Danielle has you vocalizing while Zumba-ing (to make sure you are breathing) – you even get a little practice at singing and dancing at the same time!  I TRULY BELIEVE EVERY SINGER SHOULD TAKE ZUMBA!  Anyone who is looking for a class to get started in the dance world should DEFINITELY get to a Zumba class ASAP – any dancer looking to improve their stamina should get to a Zumba class ASAP – and anyone just looking to have a fun dancing time should get to a Zumba class ASAP.  Basically – this entry is one big Zumba advertisement!
For those of you who would like to watch a video of what Zumba is so you know what to expect when you walk into class – here is a special the TODAY SHOW did back in 2007!
And here is a Zumba fitness basic steps demo!
I hope to see you in Zumba class!!!!