Before she was Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’s title character (the Grammy Award-winning music icon Carole King), Chilina Kennedy was in the audition room—no costumes or makeup; just an accompanist and her audition repertoire. She goes through her book of songs, and reveals what material she uses and how she scored the role.
What song did you sing to book this job?
Chilina Kennedy: Many. My favorite was singing and playing “Natural Woman,” but I also enjoyed “Beautiful.”
What are two other go-to audition songs you sing?
Definitely The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” done in the Across the Universe style. For more legit roles, I love doing pieces like [Rodgers and Hart’s] “You’re Nearer,” Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Poor Wandering One,” or the classical piece “The Singer.” “Times Like This” [from Lucky Stiff] is a good one for MT. I also love picking obscure pieces or lesser known songs like Lord of the Rings’ “Lullaby–Song of the Traveler” from the original Canadian production of the musical.
What have you used at auditions when casting directors switch to an 8-bar cut?
Eep. Can’t remember. Anything with a fast and exciting build. “Times Like This” has a good little section.
Any advice on finding the perfect cut? Do you work with a rep coach?
Good advice from a smart and experienced coach is always a good idea.
What do you use for auditions that ask you to not sing musical theatre songs?
Music I like to listen to and hear. Something that I feel comfortable singing and that I know I sound good doing. Heart has great female tunes. You can always count on The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Queen, and Elton John. There are so many great songwriters out there.
Where do you look for inspiration? How do you keep your book fresh?
It’s a constant effort! I try to stay true to myself, but also current with what is popular. I try to listen to music and hear new artists.
Do you have a terrible audition story, or was there a song you used that you’d never use again?
I have many terrible audition stories! I fall on my butt more than I nail it, but the longer you’re in the business, the more stories you have of all varieties. Auditioning is a skill in and of itself. Some people are amazing at it, and I try to learn from them. The main thing is that no matter what happens, instant forgiveness is your friend, and you need to get back and do your best the next time.