Performance Guides and Checklists

Below you will find some resources to help you develop and hone your performance skills. Use these as guidelines for preparation and reflection.

The first document was developed for the Sophomore Song Study class but could be helpful to anyone. It is a checklist of things to remember as you prepare as song and as a tool for self-reflection after a performance to help it be better for the next. Musical Theatre Checklist

The second is a list I call What Makes a Great Musical Theatre Performance. It can be found in Excavating the Song (2013 Edition on the Excavating the Song Resources page)

The third is a checklist for learning a new song. A downloadable PDF is here.

Qualities of a Great Musical Theatre Performance

Neal Richardson, 2012

In a great musical theatre performance,


  1. All pitches and rhythms are correct1

  2. The performer is aware of indications such as fermatas, tenutos, caesuras and dynamics

  3. The changes in the music are motivated by the performer

  4. There is an absence of decrescendos at the end of a long pitches, especially at the end

  5. The last note has length and is sung without a decrescendo

  6. The ending of the song has a button, especially in up-tempos

1 In special cases, sometimes rhythms may be altered if the lyrical phrasing mandates a change.


  1. Vocal colors change in response to the lyric and acting choices

  2. The singer does not listen to themselves while singing.

  3. The vocal energy affects the partner and, as a result, reaches the audience.

  4. There is a clarity of diction that does not draw attention to itself

  5. The singing style is appropriate to the song

  6. When a spoken lyric happens during a song, the energy is greater than the sung lyric, not lesser.

  7. When vocal licks are employed, there is a spontaneity in them and they support the lyric and moment.

Text Analysis

  1. There is specificity in the song’s story2

  2. The phrasing takes the lyric’s punctuation into consideration

  3. The performer knows their super-objective

  4. The performer knows what the conflict of the song and their situation

  5. The performer knows the journey of the song and is able to live the life of the song moment-to-moment

  6. There is a beginning, middle and end

  7. There is knowledge of the song’s original context, even if the song is sung with a newly created situation

  8. The images in the song are clear to the audience

2 The listener may not know all the details of your situation, but they will understand the essentials.


  1. There is physical energy

  2. The energy of the performance matches the energy of the song

  3. The physicality is that of the character, not the singer.

  4. The physicality does not distract from the song

  5. The arms are not disconnected from the body

  6. There is breath in the body that supports the singing voice

  7. The physicality is spontaneous and not choreographed

  8. The action and physicality of the character is present and specific even if there is no singing

  9. The physicality has variety

  10. The moment before launches the song

  11. The physicality does not distract or draw attention away from the face

  12. There is a lack of tension, especially in the eyebrow, forehead, and hands


  1. The breaths that are the breaths of the character, not the singer

  2. There is specificity in focus that is not too high, too low or too off center

  3. There are changes in action that respond to and motivate the musical changes

  4. Avoids finding the negative but instead fights for the positive outcome

  5. Does not play emotion

  6. There are a variety of emotions

  7. The action precedes the corresponding lyric, not the reverse

  8. Has proper scale, not too big for the song or too small

  9. Has stakes that are appropriate for the song and situation

  10. Energy and volume are not equated.3

  11. There is joy in the act of singing

3 Soft can be energetic and all moments do not need to be loud.


  1. Clothes do not distract from the song or performance

  2. Hair is not allowed to distract from the face and eyes

  3. The eyes are not closed, except in special cases