I know next to nothing about audition songs, but I'd advise you to choose one song that demonstrates social passion, and one song that demonstrates love. Bernardo is passionate about his gang's safety and reputation, and he loves Maria very much.
With regards to the accent, I can't say much, except for "Keep it natural!" There's nothing worse than a FORCED, UNNATURAL-sounding accent. You will want to avoid sounding either un-accented, OR racistly stereotyped. You'll just want to sound like a strong, passionate leader and brother who happens to be Puerto Rican. Remember that Bernardo's thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are slightly more imprtant than his accent.
I've only ever seen the movie version of "WSS" (I WISH that I could see a stage production of the play), but, in my opinion, Bernardo is basically a young man with a great deal on his plate. When you really think about it, you can see that he has to be a leader, a boyfriend, a big brother, a role model, a fighter, a father figure, a young adult in general, and a SON. In other words, the weight of the entire West Side rests upon his shoulders, which are still pretty young.
*As a leader, he's responsible for inspiring pride in the other gang members, AND for striking the fear of God into those gang members who break the rules of the gang! He has to try to balance his Puerto Rican values with the new American values, and he doesn't want to mislead, or betray, anybody who's on his side.
*Anita is a handful for Bernardo! She's an 18-year-old woman who is not as proud of her heritage as Bernardo is proud of his, in part, because the Puerto Rican culture tends to favor men over women. Anita is determined to be an all-American, 1950s woman, and she wants to have fun for herself! She also threatens to pull Anita into her all-American schemes! Bernardo must feel as though he's constantly fighting an uphill battle with the woman he loves! He feels as though he must keep her in line, as he COULD, by law, were they both in Puerto Rico! Of course, the very fiery inclinations that lead Anita to rebel are those which attract Bernardo to her, so he still thinks of her as his precious girlfriend, to whom no harm should come.
*Of course, it must be noted that Bernardo's brotherly love for his little sister Maria just might trump his love for Anita, in some ways. Remember that Bernardo calls Maria "A precious jewel," and that a jealous Anita fires back, half-jokingly, with "And what am I? Cut GLASS?" With Bernardo, blood will ALWAYS be thicker than water, so that Bernardo is willing to do ANYTHING for Maria, even if "anything" includes taking on the role of his own father for what he believes is Maria's own good. Remember that when Anita is arguing with Bernardo, telling him that Maria should have a right to be an American girl, she says "She HAS a mother, also a father," and that a defensive Bernardo takes on a rather presumptuous, parental (and actually, a protective-of-the-parents) role, saying, "And they do not know this country any better than SHE does." Remember also how he gently, but bossily, orders his little sister to go to bed. He says something like "When you are an old married woman with five children, then you can tell me what to do. Right now it is the other way around." He is literally trying to take on a fatherly role with Maria, so that he can protect her from her own curiosity. He knows about racism, and she does not, and it would kill his soul if she ever gave into her curiosity, only to be burned by Caucasian racists. He is being unarguably sexist with Maria, but he is also trying to protect Maria, by essentially telling her that she can only gain the right to be so presumptuous about her future by having lived for a great deal many more years. I think that Bernardo has had to grow up so quickly that he's learned too much for his young age, and that he wants to protect Maria from those American truths that can burn severely.
*Bernardo feels as though he must be a role model for everybody he is in charge of. He must try to be a good American, while honoring his Puerto Rican roots, AND while taking flack from the local police force. He must be a gang leader, and a dutiful big brother, and a role model, all the while showing dignity in front of his friends, even as Caucasian city leaders, AND The Jets, berate him, and try to make him crumble in front of those whom he's supposed to lead.
*Bernardo is strong, tough, and possessed of the ability to lose his temper when he needs to kick some Jet butt! Of course, even his role as a fighter comes with an added dose of pressure. Bernardo has to be physically strong, and he has to try to avoid showing fear, AND he has to try to survive during every fight, while STILL beating the stuffing out of his opponant, because his entire gang is counting on him to be a LEADER, and not just a participant! He CAN'T be weak, show pain, cry, give up, become depressed, etc., because all Shark eyes are on him at all times.
*When the Sharks are on the streets, Bernardo is literally their father figure. It is Bernardo who has the responsibility of making certain that his Sharks are protected, organized, energized for each fight, etc. He also feels the need to protect his sister from the innocent, trusting nature of their parents, so that he becomes a father figure to Maria, too. Bernardo is too young to be a father to a gang, AND a father to his sister, and yet, that is just what he is, constantly trying to strengthen the legacy of his West Side Shark "children" by making them unbeatable at all costs.
*I believe that Bernardo wishes that he had more time to be a REAL young adult. He's not too keen on constantly HAVING to fight just for the right to receive some "street time" in his own neighborhood. He doesn't WANT to have to face off with racists, who keep saying that all is equal, and who THEN keep telling him, and his friends, to "beat it". He'd like to carve out some turf for himself, and for his gang, and he'd like to take Anita out on the town, dance, eat at a local diner, etc., ALL without having to answer to anybody else. In other words, he'd like some down-time, during which he can have fun, let his guard down, and be at ease. He must be one stressed-out guy, what with all of that fighting, etc., that he's doing.
*The one aspect of Bernardo that is NOT really explained in the movie version of "West Side Story" is Bernardo's role as a son! If the script for the musical doesn't give you many clues, then you'll have to invent a son's point of view for Bernardo. In order to do that, ask yourself what Bernardo does during the musical. Then ask yourself which childhood events might have caused Bernardo to have his current, adult personality. What kind of a son IS Bernardo? Does he get along better with his father, or with his mother (Ypu might recall that Maria gives us one clue about her mother during the movie, saying that her mother is thin)? Is Bernardo's dad authoritative, or was it always Bernardo's job to sort of move the family along through life (Remember that their father tries several times to call Maria in from the fire escape, and that he and his wife are "strict", at least in the play, but that he DOES call Maria by a sweet pet name)? You might want to ask yourself weather or not Bernardo is educated in any way. You might want to decide weather or not Bernardo was always a popular, well-liked boy, and weather or not he seemed, during his childhood, like the type of boy who would later be leading, of all people, GANG MEMBERS!
*You may also want to decide what Bernardo's relationship with Chino is. During the movie, Bernardo seems to have little to do with Chino. He seems to approve of a match between Chino and Maria, but he doesn't really seem to have much interaction with Chino himself, so you'll want to decide what Bernardo REALLY thinks of Chino. Is he much more concerned about Maria's stability that who she's actually going to gain that stability WITH? Does he view Chino as a silly little nobody, or as a currently scrawny guy who has the potential to become a future big cheese within the gang? Does he feel any real responsibility for Chino, or does he not care about Chino much at all, anyway, because Chino is just a match for Maria, and one rather scrawny, yet cooperative, member of the gang? (I can't remember if Chino is actually in the gang or not, so he may not even be in the gang. Sorry.)
With regards to the audition situation, I think that if you audition for BOTH shows, and you then land roles in both shows, your director might feel cheated if you suddenly decide to leave one of the plays in which you got a role. I also think that you should avoid taking on too much work, unless you're absolutely certain that you won't become stressed by the weight of all of that work. If you're passionate about the dramatic arts, then you should be able to have FUN performing onstage, and if you're way too stressed out to perform well, and/ or with a sense of fun, then your onstage performance(s) might suffer.
It sounds to me as though you really want the role of Bernardo. I wonder if you should tell your director that you'd just like to be in the chorus for the other play, and that you'd like to put all of your auditioning efforts into your "WSS" audition. Does that sound like a better situation for you? In the end, only you can decide what you should do, but I'm wondering if you should really go all-out for the role of Bernardo, which it seems as though you want to do.
Well, thanks in advance for your reply, and good luck, with regards to landing the role of Bernardo!
Okay so this coming spring I will be auditioning for West Side Story Locally, I really want the role of Bernardo! I have gone through about a million audition pieces and I cant seem to decide any. I need two songs, an uptempo and a ballad. Any suggestions? I am a bass in choir but am most comfortable around baritone so anything real bass and baritone is good! I really want something that shows me off as Bernardo with all his fire!
and something similar to West Side Story. I would also like to know if anyone can give me tips on a very good puerto rican accent, I have been watching the movie and trying, and its okay now, but I want it to be AMAZING by the Auditions. I am here also to ask for any helpful hints and tips and such. Anything that you think will give me an extra chance at becoming Bernardo!
Also another thing, kind of related, Im not sure if I should do two shows at once? Coming up my high school is doing the play Our Town and I want to do it! But the west side Story auditions are two weeks later and I really wanna do both shows seperately, but I dont know if I should do both at once, as the Our Town auditions come first, should I audition for both and then decide, but If I like my part in both would it be hard to balance both, plus school work (Junior Year).
PLEASE AND THANK YOU !