“My First Big Job” series

By Ashton Byrum
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.


Jake Morrissy – Mamma Mia! at The Paramount Theatre, Aurora, IL  (Sept. 7 – Oct. 30, 2016)

jake-morrissy-headshot1. What show are you doing – and what is your job in the show? Features? Covers?

I am currently performing in the ensemble of the Paramount Theatre’s production of Mamma Mia!

2. Can you describe the audition? Where was it? Was it a dance call, singer call or agent appointment?

The audition for Mamma Mia! took place at the Actor’s Equity Building in downtown Chicago. The Paramount was hosting both an EPA and an ECC and I opted to go to the EPA. I arrived, bright and early, at 8:30am and waited for the doors to open at 9:30am. Although I am EMC (a member of the Equity Membership Candidacy program), I try and arrive as early as I can to make sure that I am seen before the day comes to an end. The amount of people that came to the audition was astounding. They had a lot of appointments scheduled and there was a lot of EMC and non-equity performers that came as well. I was #10ish on the EMC list and was able to be seen by 11am! I entered the room and was greeted by the artistic team (Jim Corti, Trent Stork, Tommy Vendafreddo, and Kaylee Oost.) They asked me to sing the song that I had prepared. I did and was then asked to sing another selection from my book. After that song, I was thanked and left the room.

3. What did you prepare (if you don’t mind sharing)? What did you wear?

Since it is Mamma Mia!, I knew I wanted to bring in a pop/rock song. So, I ended up bringing in “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley. Even though it is considered to be an 80’s song, I decided to take it out of its context and give it a more comedic air and fit it a little more to the Mamma Mia style. After singing that song, the MD asked if I had something else, still in the pop/rock genre, but with a little less of a comedic edge and more “real”. So, in the room, I went through my book and chose the 50’s/60’s tune “Runaway” by Del Shannon.

For the audition, I wore a more casual look. I went with a pair of brown ankle boots, kahki ABC pants from Lululemon (BOYS: if you do not own a pair of these, get yourself to a Lululemon and get a pair. The best pants for auditioning. Look like dress pants, stretch like dance pants.), a dark navy plaid button up, and a light heathered grey herringbone zip up. This outfit was chosen because not only does it look presentable, but it is also incredibly comfortable and I can easily move in it.

4. How many callbacks did you have? What did you do? Anything unusual?

For this show, I only had one callback. It was a standard callback where we prepared songs and then learned a dance combination on the spot. Specifically, we were sent the music for “Lay All Your Love on Me”, “Money, Money, Money”, and “Mamma Mia!” and then told to prepare a part for the callback. Once we got to the callback, Tommy (the MD), separated us into groups dependent upon the part we had learned. He paired us in duos and trios depending on the parts needed. We sang and then learned a hip-hop/contemporary dance to the titular song on the spot. After we were taught the combination. we split up into groups of four, and did the dance twice (switching lines each time). After the dance call, I was asked to stay and read a side and then was released after.

5. Did you book this job on the “first try” – or have you been considered for this show/theatre in the past?

I booked this job on the “first try”. I had wanted to audition for this company for a long time and it finally worked out to where I was in town for the auditions and the rest is history!

6. Where did you get your training? Do you have an agent?

I got my training from Millikin University in Decatur, IL. I graduated with a BFA in Musical Theatre in 2014 and have been in the Chicagoland area ever since! At this time, I do not have an agent but I’m looking into getting one!

7. What’s your favorite thing about this job?

My favorite thing about this job is getting to collaborate with this specific group of artists. Everyone brings a huge level of talent, skill, and professionalism to this production and its an exciting opportunity to get to perform with them and learn from them.