Casting the leads in your next production can be a make or break decision as it concerns your show’s overall success. 

Should you go with the seasoned pro who harbors a bit of an ego, or the green hopeful who’s not so confident, but has the passion in spades? While there’s no true right or wrong answer, On The Stage presents a few things to consider before picking your leads. 

Work Ethic and Passion

There are a vast array of variables you’ll need to assess before picking your leads, but perhaps the most important ones to focus include understanding a person’s passion for the theatre and their work ethic – both on and off the stage. 

You may sway towards choosing the aforementioned seasoned pro: the one who handled the audition with ease and emanates raw talent. This one, though, may not love the material nor care ardently about the show, skating by on technique alone. 

While you’ll likely get a well-executed performance, consider the greener counterpart, the one who may have less raw talent, but has the determination to succeed and the passion to make it happen. That person will likely spend more time dedicated to the show and their character – creating a dynamic and nuanced performance, as opposed to a “perfect” one. Compelling theatre is rarely perfect, after all. 

Ego (Or Lack Thereof)

An actor with an ego is a hard actor to manage, it’s true. Watch your potential leads during auditions and workshops and answer the following questions for yourself. 

  • Do they have the ability to take constructive criticism in stride? 
  • Do they carry an air of superiority, or do they socialize and team up with others around them? 
  • Do they arrive on time and respect time limits and guidelines on audition materials?
  • Do they work with humility and have an open demeanor and willingness to learn?
  • Do they speak to others with respect – whether that’s creative leadership, other staff, or other actors?

There’s nothing wrong with confidence (more on that later!) but respect and accountability are important factors to consider. 

Leadership Skills

Alongside a great creative team, leads should also bring a cast together through teamwork and camaraderie – both during rehearsals and in off time.

Consider leads as secondary captains in your stead; they should be able to motivate others around them to get creative, push themselves, and work harder to hit goals. A likable lead can propel the rest of the cast into greatness. 


Before you think we’re giving conflicting advice here, there’s nothing wrong with casting an actor with a limited resume. However, it’s always a good thing to have leads that know the ins and outs of the theater – the time demands, the multi-tasking, the stress of tech week, and physical toll that comes with leading a knock-out show.

Study each lead’s resume and see what comparable roles they’ve taken on. Having someone who’s prepared for a wild ride will likely make the process easier for you. 


A flexible lead will bring a different dynamic to rehearsals. 

When we talk about “versatility,” it can certainly mean the ability to perform in a variety of different mediums. I.E.: Can this person dance well? Sing a wide range? Play both comedy and drama?

But, versatility in personality can be just as important. Are they open to practicing with the chorus when they aren’t featured in a scene? Are they OK with trying scenes a different way – a way that may seem a bit experimental? Are they open to reading for other parts if someone’s out sick? In short, team players are the best types of leads to have on your stage. 


Your potential lead could be the most talented actor working today, but if they aren’t reliable, your show will suffer for it. 

Reliability can be measured in a variety of ways. Firstly, ensure they came prepared to auditions, with materials memorized and ready to go. Next, consider communication and behavior patterns. Are they easy to get a hold of outside the audition room? Did they arrive late to auditions? 

A great way to get a sense of an actor’s reliability is by checking references. We know this isn’t an office job, but you can talk to other casting directors and creatives about previous shows. See if that actor missed any rehearsals without an excuse, was off-book on time, and could perform under pressure. 


A strong lead knows what they bring to the table. This isn’t to say they think they know better than the director (see: ego), but a great lead isn’t afraid to take risks, try new things, and evolve as an actor. 

Remember, confidence can be built by a strong creative team behind the scenes. If you’ve discovered a star in the making, sometimes all it takes is a little push and a lot of positive affirmation to get an actor where you want them to be. 

The Intangible “It Factor”

Star quality is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. If you feel magic when a certain person auditions, they likely have that extra bit of charisma to bring to a role. 

This can also manifest as special skills you didn’t necessarily think about when considering your perfect lead – whether that’s show-stopping dancing skills, a crazy falsetto, or a real talent for improv.  Combine them all up and you’ve got that “It Factor!” 


As you work towards building another great season, consider teaming up with On The Stage to streamline the business end of your theatre and elevate the creative side, too. Book a personal demo today to get started. 


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