How to Choose an Audition Song for “In the Heights”

Are you wondering what song to choose for “In the Heights” auditions? Below are a few general guidelines that I think are important (I’ve given some of these tips for previous shows, and they’re still worthwhile).

“In the Heights” opened on Broadway in 2008, and is the proud, acknowledged inheritor of shows that blend rock/pop music into musical theater (shows like “Hair”, “Godspell”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, last year’s Starcatcher show, “Pippin”, and “Rent” — Lin-Manuel Miranda has specifically spoken of “Rent” as a major influence). What “In the Heights” added to the rock/pop mix was hip-hop and Latin music (Salsa, Bolero, etc.). Also reggae, swing, and rhythm and blues — and that’s just the show’s opening number! Later songs in the show add in pop ballads, Merengue, Bachata, Reggaeton, and more. So what do you do with all that variety?

1) First and foremost, an audition song should help the creative team see the strengths in the performer that are appropriate for the show. Consider what part you’re trying out for, the nature of the character and of that character’s songs in “In the Heights”. For example, most of Benny’s numbers are R&B; Usnavi generally raps. Abuela Claudia sings Salsa, Nina does emotional, gentle ballads, Vanessa uses a Merengue beat. Choose a song from a musical, or appropriate song that’s not from a musical, that shows off your talent as well as possible — in relation to the character’s traits, musical style, vocal range, and vocal quality.

In other words, the song you choose is emphasizing something—maybe a quiet introspective nature, or a loud brassy voice, or the ability to be a romantic lead, or the ability to do comedy. Choose a song that’s connected to the target character. So, if you’re trying out for Mama Rose in “Gypsy”, you wouldn’t audition with “In My Own Little Corner” from “Cinderella”; but “Don’t Rain on My Parade” might work.

2) Confidence! Choose a song with which you feel comfortable!

3) We hope to hear lots of songs being auditioned, so decide whether a song from “In the Heights” is the best way to show us your talent — we’re probably going to be hearing a lot of those songs, and you do want to stand out! But if the best song for you is from “In the Heights”, go for it. Other possibilities include songs with a strong Latin beat (I hesitate to recommend specific songs here, but the style of songs such as “Despacito” and “Livin’ la Vida Loca” point in a certain direction). Different rhythmic styles are a major part of “In the Heights”, and certain songs will show off your ability to handle them.

4) You should bring music if you can, either sheet music or a karaoke track. I don’t feel that having background music is absolutely essential, but it does sometimes help a singer feel more comfortable and/or sing better.

Looking forward to seeing you there!


–Jeff Rosenschein, Musical Director

Auditions for In the Heights are Sunday Oct 14th 18:30-21:00 Tuesday Oct 16th 18:30-21:00 At the Jerusalem Arts High School – Yitzhak Elhanan Street (Behind the Inbal Hotel and Gan Hapaamon). For more info visit our facebook event