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Audition Xtra: RWS Associates

Wednesday, January 27, 2016 in Audition Xtra|3 comments

In around all these exciting Musical Theatre auditions in the Audition Calendar, we often see an RWS audition come up. You may or may not be familiar with them, but if you are planning to go, then here are all the juicy details you could need in order to focus on giving your best audition yet!

"Who are RWS?" I hear you ask.

RWS &Associates is a worldwide production company that provides fully serviced, pre-packaged events and live shows for corporations, theme parks, cruise ships, resorts, shopping centers and the fashion industry.

When you audition for RWS, you may be auditioning for all of these or for one component. The key though is, they have many jobs for many different types of performers! So getting yourself in front of them is extremely important.

Here you can find out about Ryan Stana, founder of RWS.

On top of that, they are so well organized, that they even give you information on How To Prepare for Auditions.

"What are they looking for? Who will be in the audition room?"

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Look out for Franklyn, senior casting 
Franklyn Warfield works for casting at RWS. He was kind enough to give us some insider information on the RWS casting process. Check out our interview:

How long have you been casting for RWS? Have you got any favorite stories from the auditions?
I have been casting for RWS since 2010, and I became the full time Casting Director in 2012 and Senior Casting Director in 2015. My favorite times are when a performer makes me want to throw something at them because they nailed it so hard. I remember once, in a dancer audition, there was this group of three girls who absolutely hit every nuance of the choreo in unison and performed like their lives depended on it. It was so thrilling that the whole room was silent for a beat or two after the music stopped and then just erupted with applause from everyone. Those are the moments that I live for in the audition room. I LOVE getting excited over performers.

What are you looking for in a first impression of a performer in the audition room? Is there anything that stands out and makes you think "yes" or "no"?
I enjoy people that are appropriately friendly and warm in a genuine way – we can tell immediately when someone is trying too hard. In a first impression, we are simply trying to get a feel for who you are as a person and as a performer. Best case scenario is when people enter a room knowing who they are and present us with a showcase of their strengths. Your look is also extremely important. If you didn’t bother to do your hair, put on makeup or iron your shirt, then I assume you are not taking the audition seriously and therefore wasting our time. 

A “yes” for me is someone unique and exciting. I love it when singers wear something that’s not obviously their “audition costume.” I love it when dancers demonstrate musicality and style while really being connected and present – performing beyond the mirror. An audition is NOT the same as class. 

A “no” for me is someone who has no idea where they truly fit into this business. Another “no” for me is someone who looks and performs just like the other 50 girls in line wearing the same solid-color wrap dress and the same character shoes with the same song sung the same way. Yet another immediate “no” is someone who comes in with material not asked for in the audition notice. If I took the time to post that we want a pop/rock song, that is what I want to hear. Follow directions

RWS Dance Auditions

Are there any songs you really don't want to hear in an audition?

Because of the nature of the shows that we do (cruise ship/theme park), I actually enjoy some of the musical theatre cliches such as “Lost in the Wilderness” for guys or “The Wizard and I” for girls. I can immediately gauge someone’s strengths both vocally and performance-wise. I am particularly sick of hearing any of Sutton Foster’s songs from Thoroughly Modern Millie, “Alone” by Heart, “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles, “Someday”  from The Wedding Singer, “Something to Talk About” by Bonnie Raitt, “Mama, A Rainbow” fromMinnie’s Boys, and “Go the Distance” from Hercules

Handshake or no handshake when meeting performers? (We understand if it's a no!)

Yeah… That’s a strong “no” from me. Other people, I’m sure, feel differently, but I’m not a fan. It feels so formal and forced to me. 

What are you looking for in an RWS employee and how do you see that communicated in the audition? 

Of course we are looking for talent, but what we strive to seek out are performers with good attitudes who seem like they would be a pleasure to work with. I feel like at this point I’m a pretty good judge of character, and I do take note of everything that happens in the audition setting, including asking the monitor about behavior in the holding room. 

You seek very versatile performers, what do you suggest as good types of songs in the audition that show suitability across a variety of jobs?

All you can really control is showing us what you do best and leading with that. For our type of work, we prefer positive songs/performances and pleasant voices. So many people come in with ALL the angst or anger and just scream high notes at us, and I think “Stop yelling at me.” So many others come in and bore us to tears with dead eyes and blank faces. We want to see you sparkle. Our aim is to ENTERTAIN people. Simple as that. It’s also our job to identify performers with potential versatility and dig deeper throughout the course of the audition process to bring that out. 

Talk to me about any suggestions you have for helping performers to calm their audition nerves.

I don’t think there’s any real way to eliminate ALL audition nervousness, but I think putting all the pressure on yourself to be EXACTLY what you THINK the casting team wants you to be in EVERY audition is where most folks go wrong. Show the room the best of what YOU do and who YOU are, and then it’s up to casting to decide if you are what they are looking for or not.

"What's It Like to work for them?"

I managed to catch up with Zack Steel who is currently employed as the MC (principal singer) track on board Holland America Line's MS Westerdam. Prior to this, he worked with RWS as a dancer singer on a workshop of one of their new Hershey Park productions, "Dance, Dance, Dance." He trained for four years at Wright State University, and speaks very highly of his experience there, saying "they focus on building a versatile and powerful performer from the ground up."

How did you approach your first audition for RWS? Can you tell me about the entire process of auditioning for them?

So, I first auditioned for RWS in Natick, Massachusetts at the New England Theatre Conference (NETC) in the spring of 2014. Later that day, I received a callback which included singing a pop selection from my audition book, as well as a few other songs of their choice. I was unable to stay for the unified dance call at the conference, so I followed with them up via e-mail. I was told that, unfortunately, I could not be considered until they had seen me dance.
Fast-forwarding to the spring of 2015, I was attending the United Professional Theatre Auditions (UPTA) in Memphis, Tennessee. After my audition, I was recognized on sight and by first name by the same gentleman who had auditioned me the previous year. This obviously gave me a huge positive impression of this company, since they see hundreds of auditionees per year, yet took the time to remember my name (or at least appear to… either way, the gesture was appreciated). This time, I made sure to appear for the dance call later that day. They told me afterward to e-mail them immediately with my plans and offers for the coming season, which I did. I was then invited to appear at their New York City auditions/callbacks. Since I had already sung for them, I was allowed to skip that part of the process and attend the Singer Dance Call portion of the day (which was a selection from one of their shows). From there, I was asked to stay and learn a couple songs from their shows, which I did. After a private callback session with the Casting Director, Casting Associate, and Director of the show, I was invited to the final round of callbacks (several hours later), which involved learning and singing an Andrews Sisters tune in 4 part harmony on the spot. Upon completion of this part of the callback, I was told that I was officially on their hire list, and that they would let me know as soon as something became available that fit my skill set. They were true to their word. Four months later, I had an offer, two months after that, I was starting rehearsal, and now, I am responding to these questions from aboard the ms Westerdam from beautiful Georgetown, Grand Cayman, having the time of my life, all thanks to RWS & Associates!

How did you prepare for your callback?
I learned and worked the material by myself in the days leading up to the callback, with the help of rehearsal tracks and sheet music provided by RWS.

theatre, musical, dance, singer, audition, new york audition, RWS, RWS show
Zack in performance.
What are you learning from working with them, and how do you apply that to auditions now?
Always be flexible and never hold anything back. Know what you are auditioning for. It’s always better to be asked to pull something back than it is for them to try to pull more out of you. Asking to have something pulled back gives you the opportunity to show discipline and control of your instrument. If you can show them you are a dynamic performer on top of the talent that caught their eye in the first place, you’ve already set yourself apart in a much more exclusive group and exponentially increased your odds of being hired.

Given your experience, what advice can you give to performers attending RWS Auditions now?
RWS prides itself not only on the quality talent of their performers and shows, but also the quality of human being that they hire. As I said, know the job you are auditioning for. RWS is in the business of sending a cast of twelve to be their ambassadors on a behemoth cruise ship that is at sea for 7+ months at a time. If they don’t feel you have the disposition, professionalism, and maturity to handle that, they will not hire you, regardless of your talent. They see hundreds (maybe thousands) of auditionees per year… they have an abundance of talent to choose from. The way to set yourself apart, is to: be prepared, be flexible, be yourself, and CARE about the work. That mindset is why RWS is on the rise, and why they are such a wonderful company to work for.

"What Should I wear at the audition?"

As this is not for a specific show, the important thing is to show your body and technique. I would suggest leotard and tights for girls. Have a pair of dance pants handy in case there is a style closer to hip- hop. Or a crop top and dance leggings. There are some great designs around at the moment- if you want to stand out, try a bold print like the ones from Emily Hsu Designs
Men should also be sure to show off body shape. Especially if you are a pure dancer, chances are you will be doing partner work, so casting will be looking for strength and fit bodies.

"What Should I Sing at the Audition?"
As the notice points out, versatility is key! A great strategy is to prepare your best song, whatever the style, and have two or three contrasting styles that you excel at "on deck". Cruise ship and theme park shows also very much want you to "idol" it up from time to time so don't be afraid to show off your riff-y, groovy self!

So there you have it. Now go knock 'em dead.

Enjoy your audition.

'Til Next time,


A big thank you to Stephen Purdy for his advice. Stephen Purdy is the author of "Musical Theatre Song", a guide to effective song presentation and expert auditioning, and is a voice teacher and coach in New York City who partners regularly with Stage Door Connections offering workshops and seminars.

Stephen's book can be purchased online

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