"Youtube?" you say, "But Mike, isn't that just for Movie Trailers and Cat Videos?"
Well, yes there are some pretty hysterical cat videos on Youtube, have you seen the one with the two cats dancing to "Turn it Down for What?" But more importantly for us actors, Youtube is a vast video library of all sorts of performances, especially in musical theatre.
One of the most beneficial things you can do as an actor is watch other talented actors. This used to mean shelling out $30-$140 for a ticket, watching a performance once and trying to remember it all so you could analyze it later. Now all you gotta do is open up Youtube and BAM there are hundreds, if not thousands, of amazing performances by talented actors and singers for you to watch and learn from!
"So how do I know what is worth watching and what isn't?"
Well that is a pretty big question actually. Art is subjective so while one person may think someone is amazing, another person may be completely unimpressed. And to make matters even more complicated watching people you aren't as impressed with can be just as useful as watching someone you look up to. Being able to express why you don't like a particular performer is just as helpful as being able to articulate why you like another. **Important point related to this: Theatre is a very small community, there is nothing wrong with discovering what you like or don't like in a performer to inform your process. Feel free to comment on the positives. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT, post your negative thoughts in the Youtube comments, to Facebook, or anywhere on social media where the original performer, or someone they know can read it. First off, it can burn bridges you haven't even made yet, but more importantly, it's just plain rude.**
So here are my three places for a first time Youtube critic to start watching and evaluating.
- Start with performers you like. Sure this seems obvious but it really is the best place to start. Just about everyone has a performer or two they have enjoyed. What if you love the Wicked cast album but you don't know the name of the actress with plays G(a)linda? Check out the website ibdb.com. The Internet Broadway Database lists every show ever on Broadway, their original casts and creative team for every revival and even their replacement casts. For Off-Broadway stuff Wikipedia is usually the best place to find the various cast lists. Watch people that inspire you, try to figure out what they are doing that makes them have that effect on you.
- Speaking of Wicked, it is actually a great place to start. Wicked has an absolutely HUGE Youtube following and has been running all over the world for years. There are literally hundreds of videos of the various Elphabas and G(a)lindas. One of the best ways to start out watching is to compare multiple performers tackling the same song. What does one person do that separates them from everyone else that performs the song? How do they work vocally to make the song fit their instrument? Is there one take on the song you like better than another? Why?
- Just like starting with performers you like, look at shows you enjoy. See what is available on Youtube from your favorite shows. Then use ibdb to find out the name of performers you like and see what else they have done, watch that too, what do they do differently in this new role?
But seriously, check out that cat video...
I am going to leave you with one of my favorite videos available on YouTube. This is a perfect example of how to do comedic acting right. I specifically chose a Non-Musical video to show that there is great material on YouTube for non-singers as well.