Scarecrow: Finding His Confidence

"Musicals are definitely my thing. I have a good voice to get by and that's good for a musical and usually I have a lot of energy and it's an energizing show and I have to show it in my audition," he said. "I like really high notes, 'cause I probably have the highest voice in this whole show, besides the girls."

Although his first choice was the Scarecrow, he admitted that "winged monkey would be cool."

Who is the Scarecrow?

When the boys walked in for their audition, Scott Pafumi, theater arts director at Westfield High, explained what he's looking for in the character.

"The Scarecrow to me is really funny. He has to be a clown. He has a cartoon-y quality. I've always thought of the Scarecrow as someone sensitive. You want to hug him, but you're afraid you're going to break him. A wind will blow him over. He's not strong, muscular or built. He's made of straw," Pafumi told them. "Above all, the Scarecrow is lacking self confidence. He doesn't feel like anyone has ever taken him seriously. He's the kid who had sand kicked in the face. He would be the kid you picked on in the playground."

Each contestant introduced himself: name, title of monologue and of audition song. The tension inside the room is palpable.

"The competition is intense -- I'm not going to lie," Henson said. "It's ridiculously intense. One thing I hate about auditions is when they take you from the resting room and you walk into the audition room and you're all in that line. You feel like you're walking to your death or something. You're like part of a chain gang."

The Auditions Begin

Henson is the first person to sing the audition song. Suddenly, the boom box malfunctions and he starts singing eight counts early. Later, he recovers in the post-performance interview with Pafumi as he describes why he's the perfect man for the role.

"I'm obviously a big guy, and the Scarecrow is typically lanky and gangly," he said. "Yet I feel the Scarecrow is such a bluesy character. I love the music he gets to sing plus I feel it would be a personal challenge if I was able to pull that off."

When Russell Wagoner steps up to the mike, he improvises a short musical riff before the lyrics start. All the judges scribble a note in their books. Pafumi seems concerned about Wagoner's commitment to the grueling 10-week process. "You have no conflicts, right? You're not doing anything else?"

With a smile, Wagoner answered, "Theater is my life!"

One of the last boys to audition is Clay, the youngest -- and the shortest -- boy to step before the panel. Between his stature and the splash of childish freckles, it will be a radical choice against type-casting if he wins the role.

Despite a polished performance, Clay got a tough critique from Pafumi who wasn't happy that Clay auditioned in shorts.

You're an experienced veteran and you dress like this?" he questioned. "Shorts? Sneakers? Not part of a professional look."

Once the boys leave the room, the judges start comparing notes. Should Pafumi give Clay, a freshman, a major role after his first audition? Does Wagoner really have the right stuff? Which of the four roles Henson applied for would best serve the production?

As for the contestants, they all leave feeling good about their tryouts.

"I thought I did well," Henson said, walking to his car. "I thought I could have done better in my vocal audition. But, hey, you got to leave something for your callbacks. Fingers crossed, fingers crossed."

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