In Defense of the Kids Who Had the Nerve to Audition

In which, for once, inclusivity supersedes quality

We all—of a certain age, anyhow—remember the scene in High School Musical where a procession of hopefuls audition for the winter musicale. They sing an excerpt from “What I’ve Been Looking For” accompanied by its composer, accident-prone musical genius Kelsi Nielsen, who is to East High what Cole Porter was to Yale (albeit she could do with a good arranger). It’s played for laughs, as the students demonstrate either no talent or a style of talent incongruous to the demands of the material.

Here’s the thing: had I been in Ms. Darbus’ shoes, I would have cast all of those kids. And let me tell you why.

  • Do you know how difficult it is to get teenagers to sing publicly in the same place where they spend most of their time with people who might judge them for it? This turnout is impressive.
  • They’re into it. Even the ones who are a little off-key or off-rhythm are too passionate to be self-conscious. Which translates pricelessly to the stage—and gives you the entire rehearsal process to either help them improve or fashion their roles in ways that play to whatever strengths they do have.
  • Oh sure, poke fun at that operatic sound, but Cyndra was the most technically proficient singer of the bunch. She could be the vocal coach or something. Even if you don’t cast her, put her on crew.
  • And put that dancer in charge of choreography. Just be sure to clear the stage so he doesn’t crash into anything.
  • I’ve seen a few high-school auditions. The ratio of talent and teachability in this group is pretty darn high.
  • They, unlike a certain Basketball Boy and Science Nerd, had the guts to formally audition, and as such deserve some kind of reward.
  • You need an ensemble!!!

God knows I empathize with the standards Ms. Darbus upholds for her theater, but let’s be realistic here. It’s an educational setting. Give the kids a chance. Don’t crush their dreams, that’s what the real world is for.

Image: from Twitter—except those last two squares don’t count!

Published by Cecilia Gigliotti

Cecilia Gigliotti (she/her) lives in Berlin with a beloved ukulele named Uke Skywalker. She co-hosts and produces the music commentary podcast POD SOUNDS. Her free time goes toward dancing, reading books new and old, drawing cartoons, taking city walks, and devoting too much thought to the foibles of her heroes. Connect with her on Instagram (@c_m_giglio, @ceciliagphotography, @pod_sounds_podcast) and see what else she's up to (

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