Importance of the Ensemble in Musicals

As important as leads are in musicals, the people who make up the ensemble are just as important. Without the ensemble, you literally have no show and there is even less excitement and joy in a musical experience. The vast majority of a musical’s cast are in the ensemble. Found within the ensemble are understudies who cover for the leads in case they are out. The ensemble truly helps with believability.

For the most part, the ensemble helps create many different types of characters. For example in Wicked, the ensemble creates the extra students who attend Shiz and even create citizens of OZ. Without those pieces of Wicked, you are leaving out a lot of things that are beneficial to Wicked. Like in the case of Newsies, the ensemble mostly creates up the rest of the Newsies and their brotherhood is so important which is why you need the ensemble to create the other Newsboys. In the show, you mainly get to meet Jack Kelly, Davey, Les, and Crutchie, but you need the other Newsies for the story to make sense. Even in the case of Les Mis, the ensemble creates citizens of France, creates the rest of the students outside of Enjolras and Marius.




Just like leads, the ensemble also helps with musical emotions. They help express both positive and negative emotions. When I was younger, it was the exciting numbers that I loved the most. Now I have come to realize that the ensemble also creates negative emotions as well such as both versions of “Look Down”, “At the End of the Day”, and in Wicked, “What is This Feeling”. But in the Wicked song, to this day, it is the dancing that I look forward to the most even though it is important to understand that Elphaba and Glinda once strongly disliked each other.


Whenever I see a musical, the ensemble is highly important to create an incredible cast. When it comes to a wonderful cast, I want to see a strong ensemble and a strong set of leads. In a lot of ways, I feel like the ensemble has to work harder than the actual leads especially when it comes to the understudies and swings. Without the ensemble, you are left with virtually nothing and a lot of believability will be lost.

Why do you think the ensemble is beneficial?


Author: mphadventuregirl

I am a strong spiritual person who is a big fan of musicals. This blog deals with spirituality and musicals. I am finding that by writing about these, I am realizing I know more about each of them then I think I do. I hope you find my blog inspiring!

29 thoughts on “Importance of the Ensemble in Musicals”

    1. Exactly. You need an ensemble to fully function. They are equally as important as the leads. Look at the dance and spectacle numbers-all ensemble numbers. Look at the ensemble members who are also understudies-they have to memorize more than anyone


      1. Yep! Those actors and actresses never cease to amaze me! They have to be ready to go on for anyone at any given time with little to no notice. That’s pretty impressive and something I’m pretty sure I could never do


      2. Whenever I find out I have an understudy especially for a show I know, I always a bit nervous, but still always surprised. I saw brilliant understudies play Jean Valjean and Elphaba before and those two were so talented at those roles. Now look at the actual swings-they have to memorize more than understudies because technically they are understudies of understudies and even have to memorize lead roles as well


      3. I remember before heading in the auditorium I saw a sign that said understudy for Valjean and I was like “I hope he doesn’t mess it up, this is the West End we’re talking about”. But boy I completely dropped that worry the moment that Valjean opened his mouth and I was like oh my god, so glad I got him as Valjean


      4. I remember sitting down in out seats, looking through the Playbill, telling my mom that I was (pretty) sure that everything was going to be alright and that it’d (probably) be worth flying from Seattle to New York. I was kinda unsure though. But then, when he started singing I was just utterly blown away and the whole way back to our hotel, my mom and I were talking about how great he was!


      5. The fact that I had a brilliant Valjean who was an understudy on the West End is quite impressive. I am usually the most nervous when I hear I have an understudy for the main character compared to the other leads


      6. That makes sense! As much as side characters and ensemble characters are important, leads are the characters that you see the most of so it makes sense to be more nervous when an understudy takes on a lead role. I’ve never seen an understudy I wasn’t pleasantly surprised by as of yet!


      7. The main character holds a lot of weight to the entire story. There are other leads besides the main character, but the main character is why there is even a story to begin with. I had a lot of nervous factor even though I quickly regretted that thought immediately and its crazy when you are in London living your dream and you have an understudy for the main character


      8. Yeah. When I went to New York, I was expecting to see John Owen-Jones, one of my favorite Valjeans ever but he got the flu and an understudy was on. I remember being really worried but in the end, I was super impressed.


      9. In Les Mis, you need a really strong Valjean and Javert. You meet them in the very first scene and their relationship is important. When it comes to a cast, the leads are important, but without the ensemble, the musical will just not be as good


      10. 100% agree. The entire cast I saw was amazing. I think my favorite actor though, was the guy who played Enjolras. He was absolutely amazing. I’d never really seen Enjolras as a character who required a lot of emotion (other than Revolutionary fervor of course) but the guy who was playing Enjolras played him with so many varied emotions and I was just totally impressed.


      11. The West End Cast that I saw will always be special to me. But I know that other Les Mis casts could impress me just as much, but the West End cast will be special since it was the cast where I was living a dream.


      12. Definitely! There are so many productions of Les Miz that I want to see, the West End production being one of them, and I have no doubt that those casts will astonish me just as much as others have if and when I get to see them!


      13. Another crazy thing about my cast is that literally a month before, Les Mis just went though like a major cast change for like 5-6 of the lead characters. So glad I had the cast I got especially with that Valjean


      14. So I had to deal with an understudy and a set of new leads. Whenever you see a brand new set of leads one month after they joined the cast, it can be quite scary since it is towards the beginning of them in the cast. The fact that I had those and an understudy was quite impressive of how brilliant I thought that cast was. Literally from ensembles to leads, they just impressed me so much and this never happens on curtain call, I stood up right away. I usually wait till I see my favorite actor, but this time I stood up right away. That was how impressive even the ensemble was


      15. Nice! Curtain calls are actually one of my favorite things because well, for one thing, the energy is spectacular. And for another thing, it’s essentially the way we get to say “thank you” to the cast!


      16. I was literally one of the first ones to stand for that standing ovation. I feel like I have been having this history of understudies lately for both seeing shows the first time and seeing shows the fourth time.

        2015: understudies for Pippin, Leading Player, and Valjean

        2016: understudies for Elphaba and Katherine Plumber

        In the case of Elphaba and Jean Valjean, I was the most nervous due to the fact that I already knew those characters. Elphaba made me more nervous when I found out because of all musical characters, I have the most personal relationship with her and she is my favorite musical character.

        But with the Leading Player, Pippin, and Katherine, I was experiencing those characters for the very first time so there wasn’t as much worry there


      17. I’ve also seeen quite a few understudies but not quite nearly as much as you, I think.
        For me, I think the list is the following:
        Phantom (tour) – Understudies for Phantom, Christine, and Raoul.
        Phantom (Broadway) – Understudy Andre
        Les Miz (Broadway) – Understudy Valjean
        Each of those times, I was pleasantly surprised! However, I must admit that with Valjean, I was quite worried before the show started! But as soon as he started singing, I completely repented of that worry!


      18. I have never seen Rent in the theatre before. Even though understudies always surprise me and alway impress me, its just when you have them, you get worried. Sometimes it turns out where you feel they should have been the main one


      19. Yeah, that’s happened to me a number of times before! It’s kinda like “But they’re so good! And so many people will probably never get to see them in this role because they’re only there sometimes!”


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