Broadway Specific Training for Kids
The universal advice from our experts is two-fold:
1. See lots of shows. Become familiar with Broadway styles and current trends. It is worth a trip to NYC just for this purpose! A great guide to seeing Broadway shows is the 2022 New York Theatre Guide to the Best Broadway Shows for Kids. It includes some basic etiquette and tips for taking your children to a show!
2. “Bloom where you are planted”. Take classes and do community theatre at home. Take classes at the local dance studio. Find a local voice teacher and learn to read music. Get some leading roles in a small market. If your child outgrows the local theatre, it might be time to try a bigger city like New York or Chicago. By the way, theatre classes are great for kids for many other reasons besides the profession — it expands their friend group, teaches responsibility, and builds self-confidence. Read more on Why You Should Enroll Your Child in a Musical Theatre Class by Laura Dumbledon for OnStageBlog.
So what kind of training do you need? Unlike Los Angeles, where acting classes are the norm, NY kids tend to take singing and dancing lessons first. That is because most Broadway kids are hired for musicals. When you get to NYC, search out a voice teacher and a dance studio.
Voice Lessons: Note that many voice teachers feel that children are too young to learn the Broadway Belt style of singing and to do so may be doing harm to their voices long term. Legit voice teachers tell us that lessons before the age of 12 or so are pretty useless and that a children’s choir is a much better option! Make sure to research your voice teacher and be sure they are truly qualified. Singing teachers often work with kids on music from the current shows so that when auditions come up, it is not unfamiliar material.
Dance Lessons: Many studios in NYC will allow drop-ins, meaning your child can try a class here and there. This is a great way to find a teacher you feel comfortable with. There are also dance studios and teachers who are known to be able to teach at least a version of the audition dance routine to their students prior to the audition.
When looking for dance classes, make sure to take ballet. Proper technique is crucial and ballet is where that happens! Do not take “combo” classes where they learn ballet, tap and jazz in one class — there isn’t enough time to learn true skills. Remember that dance studios are a business, so be aware that they will push quantity over quality. That is a mistake! Your child will get just as much successful training from 2 quality ballet classes and one jazz class a week. More does not equal better.
Also, if a studio is either recital focused or competition focused, it means they will spend most of their class time polishing and practicing the same routines over and over, rather than learning something new. Musical theater auditions require dancers to learn new material quickly and on the spot. Thus, classes that do lots of different choreography on a regular basis will be better for audition preparation.
Here’s a helpful thread from the PARF moms about the types of dance training and audition tips for dance:
Dance and Voice Examples
When asked for specific suggestions for dance and voice lessons, our experts offered these as examples:
- Teachers: Bob Marks, Diane Hardin Workshops, Madelyn Burns, A Class Act
- Intensives: triple threat training: Broadway Artists Alliance. For example, they have an variety of 3 day intensives in the summer where kids can get training from Broadway artists, see a show and showcase what they’ve learned for $895 – $1095. Also recommended was Dance Molinari, who has bootcamps and specialists in acro and tumbling for the stage as well.
Camps: Professional level theatre camps are something unique to the East Coast. They are very expensive and they often put up fully produced musicals each summer, providing invaluable experience. Some examples to check into: Stagedoor Manor, the subject of the film “Camp” (2003), and French Woods.
Drop In Classes: Broadway Dance Center is a respected source for all kinds of dance classes, but one that many showbiz parents love is “drop-in” classes. It is perfect if you happen to be in NYC and want to to get a taste of the dance level, or a little pro practice while you are in town. They are less than $25, but they fill up so plan ahead if you can. At other studios watch for “dance cards”, which allow you more flexibility in case you miss classes for auditions.
Intensives: These weekend or one day classes can be a great supplement to regular classes. They are offered by guest instructors in dance or acting. The key is to do your research — look for quality teachers, not just a “name”. These will not be an “in”, and often they are large and your child wll not be showcasing much. Instead they should be looking to learn skills they can take away to better future performances or auditions.
Agents and Managers
You don’t really need an agent to get started auditionng for theatre. Calls are well publicized. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need a representative at some point. Many working kids seem to have managers, rather than agents, since kids are allowed to free-lance with agencies in New York (freelancing is not allowed in Los Angeles). Once you get offered a role in a professional stage production, we HIGHLY advise seeking agency representation before you negotiate your contract. Read the “Finances” section of this article for a taste of all the negotiating work that can be done to to improve your child’s Broadway experience.
Like the rest of showbiz, parents should be considering the cost of an agent and manager. Since many New York theater kids start with a manager, they must remember that the commission will be 15% to the manager PLUS 10% to whatever agent they use to negotiate the deal. Add in the 15% to the trust account, plus taxes and union dues, and you have already given away the majority of your child’s paycheck.
Agents who are known for their interest in clients doing stage work:
- NYC – Carson-Adler, CESD, Generation, Buchwald, Innovative, A3 (fka Abrams Artists), Take 3
- LA – Kazarian Measures Ruskin, Bloc Talent, The Movement Agency, CESD, MSA (McDonald Selznick and Associates)