Singing for Cirque du Soleil

Singing for Cirque du Soleil
Lisa Popeil chats with singer and voice teacher Zipporah Peddle about her 6-year gig as featured vocalist with Cirque du Soleil’s show in Las Vegas.

Auditioning for Cirque du Soleil

What was the audition process like for Cirque du Soleil? 

I had sent the casting department a video demo, and they felt that my vocal qualities matched those of the original singer from O, Roxanne Potvin, who was leaving the show after ten years. I prepared numerous demos of Cirque material over the course of a few months and then I was flown to the final callback in Las Vegas where the other candidate and myself sang with the band for the artistic director and music directors of O, and the head artistic director of the resident shows in Las Vegas. We also did a short dance and acting audition. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I was walking down the streets of Toronto and got the call telling me that they wanted to hire me!

Working For Cirque du Soleil

Did the show require different singing styles?

In the show O, there’s a mix of chest and head voice production, with very little vibrato (generally). Some of the pieces are plaintive and full of heartache, and some are very energetic and lively. There is also a piece which is a jazz improv, meant to evoke Brazilian samba.

Was the show vocally demanding? 
When you are singing ten shows a week for many years, vocal health becomes your number one priority. You have to learn to sing the show in a way that’s both emotion-ally driven and technically accurate, but also can be maintained over the course of a very long run.

For how long was your contract? 
The contracts are for one year and renew in January of each year. I was with the show for six years in total.

What was a typical work week like? 
We performed ten shows a week, each show being approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes long. We‘d show up for a sound check about 1½ hours before the first show began. So in some ways, it was like a 9-5 job, but at night! As for vacations, the entire show goes dark three times a year: once in the spring for ten days, once in the summer for ten days, and in December for two weeks.

Working for the Circus

Did you have a “cover” or understudy in case you were sick and had to miss a show? 
We had two full-time female vocalists, with two singer tracks that we sang in rotation. If one of us was out, then the other would sing live and they would use recorded back-up vocals for the second vocalist.

Working In Las Vegas

Did the dryness of Las Vegas affect your voice? 
Definitely. Anyone who performs in Las Vegas can attest to the fact that the dryness and dust really take some getting used to. I would say it was a year or a year and a half before my body had acclimatized somewhat to the climate here. Allergies are another huge concern. Many people who have never had allergies develop them when they move to the desert. I was big on humidifiers, steam showers (I had one installed at my home), watching how much I was consuming in terms of beverages that can dry out the throat, etc. Lots of sleep was very important as well.

Advice For Beginners

Do you have any suggestions for singers interested in auditioning for Cirque? 
Send them your demo! Then, if you don’t hear from them in six months, send another one! Persistence is key. Cirque du Soleil has become a huge company, and the fact that you don’t hear from them may not mean that you aren’t in their file or that they aren’t interested. It could be that they are waiting for a position that matches your abilities to become available. It could also mean that you need to remind them that you are interested and remind them how incredible you are.

What makes for a great demo?

I think singing in different languages is a big plus and since you don’t know exactly what they want to hear.

First, BE YOURSELF. Cirque often looks for unusual characteristics especially when creating a new show. They could build a role around your abilities! So show them how you are different. Second, I would include as much variety as possible. When I put together my demo, I performed an Edith Piaf song (in French), a pop song, a soprano aria (in Italian), and a cabaret-style ballad with a good story. I think singing in different languages is a big plus and since you don’t know exactly what they want to hear (they may not even know what they are looking for), show them as many different vocal qualities, aspects of your range and styles as possible. A few of the shows have a rock soundtrack, others are more folky. Listen to songs from a variety of Cirque shows, then hone your demo to match the qualities of what you hear.

Zipporah Peddle is based in the Los Angeles, California area. You can contact her at [email protected]

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