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The Dog Bites Audition: Les Misérables 

Two young theater bunnies behind us discuss existentialism versus spiritualism

Wednesday, Jun 22 2005
We could run, but we couldn't hide. There it was, right there on our computer screen: "THE BROADWAY NATIONAL TOUR OF LES MISÉRABLES TO HOLD OPEN AUDITIONS -- TO BE HELD AT THE SAN FRANCISCO BALLET MONDAY JUNE 6." This was legitimate the-ah-tah. Did Dog Bites dare?

Broadway! National tour! Our childhood dream! We were so there. Even if the gig didn't offer health insurance.

But we still didn't have a real headshot (or extra time or money to get one). So we scan a decent photo, enlarge it with our negligible Photoshop skills, and print it out on card stock. It looks like an Etch A Sketch drawing by a third-grader. Our Xeroxed rock 'n' roll gig flier (sans the club info) would have to do -- again. We staple it to our doctored bio. We don't have any theater music prepared, either, and there can't be any channeling of Janis Joplin for this. We go through our old Top 40 band charts: Mariah Carey, Taylor Dane, Miami Sound Machine. Wrong, wrong, and wrong. In the end, we make do with Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me," Aretha Franklin's "Natural Woman," and an old standard, "Someone to Watch Over Me." We'd decide when we got there. It would be an experiment in beating the odds. We felt like the Carrie Bradshaw of San Francisco: Musical Auditions and the City. Not quite as titillating, but the notion made us feel better.

8:15 a.m.: Déjà vu as we scream our best version of Aretha in our purple Velcro rollers while driving down Lombard with the Monday commuters. Audition sign-ups begin at 9:15 a.m., and Dog Bites will be there with bells on. We park in the Performing Arts Garage; $10 for the day.

8:55 a.m.: We're ready to face the music, so to speak, as we walk up Franklin Street. Through the glass doors are a gazillion people -- at least 150, anyway -- mostly musical theater types in their 20s and early 30s, a few older faces. We spot a midget -- we mean, a short person -- in a leopard top in a wheelchair. Relative of the auditioner from Beach Blanket Babylon? Some guy says there were 30 people waiting at 7 a.m.! It's chaos: Everyone seems to know each other; the room buzzes with hugs, kisses, and "Hi honeys"; and people are all practicing their songs like in Fame, some with iPods. The line for the lone bathroom stretches out the door. We have to pee like a racehorse. Where is the sign-up sheet? Who is in charge?

"SHUSH!!" the thirtysomething blond guy with the ponytail and earring at the front desk yells at us. Suddenly, dead silence. "Keep the front door clear so that people who work here can get through. Keep it to a low roar, or I'll ask you to leave. And I have no problem with doing that!"

9:15 a.m.: A woman announces that official sign-ups will begin and asks us to be respectful of who showed up first. A riot ensues as everyone rushes to get in line. A 1940s-style girl with a black ponytail, bangs, painted-on eyebrows, tattoos, and piercings tells us she's been there since 6:30 a.m.; she is No. 5. A pretty blonde tells us we will probably be "typed out," since there are so many of us yellow-hairs. We have no idea what the hell she is talking about as we nod our head in agreement. Lots of cleavage and poodle skirts. We yank our top down, trying to fit in. Two young theater bunnies behind us discuss existentialism versus spiritualism, comparing their latest shows. We feel like an alien from another planet.

9:35 a.m.: We are told the first 50 people have been signed up, and we will have to come back at 11. We head out to Hayes Street for coffee and sustenance. This is going to be a loooooong day. We eavesdrop on a discussion about last night's Tony Awards, how amazing Bernadette Peters looked, how lame the Aretha Franklin-Hugh Jackman duet was. "She looked like the Chrysler Building in that gold dress," exclaims a perky, buxom blonde who goes into a dead-on impression of Aretha riffing all over "Somewhere." We wonder if she ever auditioned for Beach Blanket Babylon.

11:05 a.m.: We enter the Robert Dollar Boardroom and get our numbers. Dog Bites is 129. The casting director, Dunya Vitolic (!), an enthusiastic, ponytailed, Lisa Loeb type, gives us a pep talk. "I want to see energy! We'll see you in groups of 20; be ready to come in as soon as the person before you goes out. We'll let you do up to 16 bars, and we'll give you a decision on the spot. We will see all of you! Callbacks are tomorrow. Have fun, people!" The girl at the table tells us to come back at noon. They are only on No. 30! Equity members grumble about not getting priority treatment. No. 151 says, "My mantra is 'Don't trip, and stay present!'" A couple of mothers hover over their teenage daughters, one of whom has already gotten a callback. Dog Bites feels ancient.

12:20 p.m.: A giant redheaded guy with a buzz cut is on the floor doing the full splits, stretching while he waits to sing. We almost trip over him. I ask the guy next to me what his number is. "One thousand two," he replies sarcastically. "I want a margarita and a nap!" the perky, buxom blonde chimes in. She is No. 126. At 12:40, the girl at the table announces they are taking a lunch break at 1, and anyone after No. 110 has to come back at 2:15. "Goddamned son of a BITCH!" growls an angelic, baby-faced platinum blonde who may be all of 20 years old. We're with Perky; we need a nap. We go out to our car. We decide to make use of the time and clean out months of clutter and find Dr. Phil's Self Matters. Dr. Phil! We bring him back with us for support.

1:35 p.m.: People are still discussing the Tonys and Aretha. We decide this is a sign from God that we should channel her. (Aretha, that is, not the female divinity.) A young guy who looks like the offspring of Chris Isaak and Alfred E. Neuman is eating Chicken McNuggets. His dipping sauce explodes all over his black dress slacks. "Great! FUCK!" he says, leaping up and running around in a circle. We offer to watch his stuff while he cleans up. He vocalizes in the bathroom.

2:20 p.m.: We are now seated in the "On-Deck Chairs," preparing to set sail on the good ship Les Miz. The Numbers Girl takes my picture and résumé. We are all vocalizing, practicing, warming up our tired pipes. "Ahhh, eee, hmmm, ooohhh ...."

2:40 p.m.: Nos. 121 through 130 go out into the hallway, waiting to enter the audition room. We watch the people before us through the small glass window on the door. Everyone delivers his best musical theater stuff; no one who comes out gets a callback. "I cracked on my last note. Break a leg everybody!" No. 125 cheers us on. Perky goes in and is cut off after eight bars. Dog Bites is doomed.

2:50 p.m.: Dog Bites gives our music to the accompanist, and we agree on a tempo. Our pal Dunya, Associate Director Evan Ensign, and Dale Rieling, the musical supervisor, are seated at the table. They are smiling, friendly. "How are you; what are you going to do for us?" the middle guy, whom we take to be Dale, asks. Total American Idol vibe. "Well, we figured since Aretha graced the Tonys last night, we'd go out on a limb and sing an Aretha classic, 'Natural Woman,' for this Tony Award-winning musical audition!" we tell them, praying they get it. Everyone laughs; we are winning them over! "Looking out on the morning rain ...," we offer up soulfully. They smile -- they like us! We get to the chorus, "You make me feel like a natural woman ...," preparing to be cut off, but no, they let us do a whole other verse and chorus, even though we almost crack midsong! "Good job, well done!" the nice middle guy who's probably Dale says. "Thank you!" they all say in near-unison.

We came, we saw, we cattle-called. We still didn't get a callback. Or health insurance. (Kimberlye Gold)

About The Author

John Mecklin


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