by Summerisa Bell Stevens
Here is the deal: I am 5’2” (which is short). In the musical theatre world, there are shows that I cannot be considered for because of my height. If an audition breakdown says they are only seeking actors that are 5’6” and above, then I am not going to waste anyone’s time by auditioning. There have been shows that I have not booked because I was told it was due to my short height.
I had only gone in for the musical Chicago once, and I got cut the first round after the ballet combination. I assumed it was due to my height since the girls who were called back were all very tall. Fast forward to June when my agent sends me an email that the Chicago team wanted to bring me in for a replacement Broadway contract. I told my agent to double check that they knew I was 5’2”. Again, I didn’t want to waste our time. My agent said that they were aware and still wanted to see me. I thought, “Well, I’ll probably get cut right away, but it will be fun to learn more Fosse choreography.”
I went to the appointment where they had us first do a ballet combination and then “All That Jazz.” I was one of the only people in the room who had not been through multiple rounds of Chicago auditions, so it was my first time learning “All That Jazz.” It was intimidating and exhilarating at the same time to be surrounded by incredible women who knew the ropes. The dance captain, David Bushman, took the time to explain the backstory of the movement and gave great attention to detail. It felt in many ways like a workshop in that he gave notes to individuals. He truly wanted to give each of us the opportunity to do our best.
Very surprising to me was that I got called back. And then called back again. And again. And again. Every callback was a “What!? Really?” moment. I felt no pressure because I had no expectations on making it to the next round. Imagine my shock when I made it all the way to the end.
During my final callback, there were thirteen other amazing women of all varying heights, shapes and abilities. There were also two other women that were my height. There was a huge range of body types and ethnicities in attendance as well. Because we were all so diverse, it did not feel like a competition. We all offered something completely different. I will never forget the energy of support and encouragement that was in that room. We truly all wanted each other to nail the choreography, sing amazing and deliver perfect timing in our monologues. Duncan Stewart, the casting director, workshopped the monologues we had chosen from “Cell Block Tango” as a group. Talk about wanting us to succeed on every platform. Finally, we were in front of director Walter Bobbie. He gave feedback and created an environment of learning.
Ultimately, I didn’t book it, but my point is that up until that audition, Chicago was not on my radar. I had thought, “I am too short and too curvy.” That limit did not exist, but I was sure it was there based on my height. To date, it is one of my favorite audition experiences, and I had the time of my life! So for today, get out of your own way, and don’t set a limit on what you can do. To quote Cady Heron in Broadway’s Mean Girls, “The limit does not exist!”