By Ashton Byrum, MFA
After the tremendous response to the Broadway Survey series, I’m excited to continue documenting and demystifying various pathways to success for Musical Theatre talents by introducing the new series,”My First Big Job.” With the help of friends and former students in the business, I interviewed actors working at a new level for the first time. While this does include Broadway gigs, I also explored regional theatre & summer stock jobs – as well as Cruise Ships, Internship/Apprentice positions and everything in between. I hope you’ll join us over the next few weeks to learn about what happened at the auditions and how the actors booked the work.
Melissa Mitchell – Ensemble (Fantine and Cosette u/s) in the most recent Broadway revival of Les Miserables which closed earlier this month
- What show are you doing – and what is your job in the show? Features? Covers?
I was in the 2014 Revival of Les Miserables from opening on 3/23/14 to closing on 9/4/16. I was in the ensemble and covered Cosette from the beginning, and covered Fantine in addition to Cosette for the final year of the production.
2. Can you describe the audition? Where was it? Was it a dance call, singer call or agent appointment?
My audition was an agent appointment at Pearl Studios.
3. What did you prepare (if you don’t mind sharing)? What did you wear?
I was given the Cosette material to prepare for my initial audition, which included “In My Life,” “Heart Full of Love,” and “Marius & Cosette” (the second act reprise of Heart Full of Love). I wore a sweet light turquoise dress for my first audition, but Cosette covers were asked to dress less “Cosette-y” for the final callbacks, so I wore a long maxi skirt and tank top that was what I would wear to an ensemble audition for Les Mis. Les Mis is not about glamour at all!!
4. How many callbacks did you have? What did you do? Anything unusual?
I had one callback after my initial audition, which was the final callback for ensemble women. We sang “At the End of the Day” and “Lovely Ladies.” For “Lovely Ladies,” we were in groups of 5 and encouraged/given freedom to physicalize the song. Then, they asked me to do the Cosette material again and asked other women for specific things, depending on what tracks they were being considered for. Something slightly unusual is that I was called back in the following day and asked to sing all of Eponine’s material. Before getting an offer, I was told the team was considering me to cover either or both roles. While I never ended up covering Eponine, I was grateful they were open to seeing me do that material in the audition process, especially as it is very vocally different than Cosette, and eventually I did get to exercise the mezzo/belt aspect of my voice by covering Fantine for the final year of our run. I received my offer a few days after the final callback!!
5. Did you book this job on the “first try” – or have you been considered for this show/theatre in the past?
Yes, this was the first time I had auditioned for this production of Les Miserables.
6. Where did you get your training? Do you have an agent?
I have been in the business since the age of 8, and have had various teachers and classes. My voice teacher of 11 years is Jill Grande-Goodsell, in Orange County, CA. Mea Hack of Burbank, CA has been my acting coach and mentor since childhood, and I’ve taken classes and coached with Cynthia Bain’s Young Actor Studio in North Hollywood, CA . Most recently I have been studying acting with the Patrick Page Studio in NYC (though I didn’t begin studying with him until the end of the Les Miz run). I grew up dancing at Jimmie DeFore Dance Studio in Orange County, CA and take dance class from time to time at BDC in NYC, though I am not usually cast for my dance ability. 😉 I constantly learn from watching colleagues and I learned endlessly in my late teens years watching the seasoned professionals I was working in regional productions in Southern California. I always trained outside of school, and earned my B.A. in Psychology from UCLA, knowing I’d pursue musical theatre in NY after graduating.
7. What’s your favorite thing about this job?
My favorite thing about my job at Les Miz was doing what I love for a living. I love singing rich music, I adore storytelling, and I love storytelling THROUGH beautiful music!! I especially enjoyed being an understudy and getting to tell Cosette or Fantine’s story from time to time. These characters have endless depth and beauty — Victor Hugo’s characters are such a treat to inhabit! Doing a long-running show can become tedious, but I was usually able to reignite my passion and remember my love for it by investing in an ensemble scene in a new way or using a word or newfound ating technique to inspire my ensemble performance (which I did close to 1,000 performances of). As always, being present for your fellow actors keeps things exciting and new, and at the end of the day (pun intended), I realize how blessed I am to truly LOVE and be passionate about my job.