When we think of the principals in musicals, we tend to think of the main ones that played them. They are the ones that tend to get the MOST respect. They get appreciated more than anybody. They are the ones we are HOPING to get. However, what happens when one of them can’t come to the theatre? Who takes their place? This is when an understudy or standby comes in? LISTEN- the standby and understudy DESERVES the same amount of RESPECT and APPRECIATION that the main principal has. They have to go on- at any time. Sometimes, the understudy or standby is called on in the middle of the show or only have five minutes to get ready. Look- these guys have to memorize more than anybody- their regular ensemble role plus the roles they understudy. Sometimes they are assigned to understudy more than one role.
Grace Morgan (Christine)
- When I saw Phantom of the Opera at the Peace Center in 2014, I had an understudy as Christine. I got choked up watching this production. I do remember feeling an emotional connection and love for Christine. The regular Christine was on vocal rest, and that was why Grace Morgan had to play the part. She is where most of my love for Christine comes from.
Lisa Karlin (Leading Player)
- When I saw Pippin in 2015, Lisa Karlin was on as the Leading Player. She was the true standout of the night. She was crafty, manipulative, playful around Pippin (to make it seem to him that he could trust him), and had this level of evilness and darkness that made her performance quite intriguing. In “Magic to Do”, she only had a small hint of evil, but when it got to “Glory”, there was a lot more evil and darkness.
Sam Lips (Pippin)
- I cannot believe I don’t remember his Pippin much. I honestly wish I did.
Adam Bayjou (Jean Valjean)
- When I found out I had an understudy- I was like, “I am in the West End, and I have an understudy for the main character”. Well, with Adam’s portrayal, I forgot I was watching an understudy. I never once detected that- that is real talent in that.
Mary Kate Morrissey (Elphaba)
- She was an excellent Elphaba. What made her Elphaba more special was the fact that she was paired with an brilliant Glinda and at the same time paired with an incredible Fiyero. I care more about what Glinda my Elphaba actresses are paired with. She embodied everything I already knew about that character- while still bringing something new. She made me appreciate a song I always hated: “No Good Deed” finally had emotions in it. She is my favorite Elphaba.
Kaitlyn Frank (Katherine Plumber)
- This is another understudy I don’t remember much about. Despite that, when I went back to my Newsies review, it did say she had incredible chemistry with Joey Barreiro, my Jack Kelly.
Talia Simone Robinson (Eponine)
- Even in the US Tour of Les Mis, I had an understudy. She wasn’t the strongest of actors in the love triangle: it was Marius (Joshua Grosso). However- I loved seeing her Eponine because she did have some strong moments. She was a bit playful around Marius at times. She did show the heartbreak- it defiantly showed. In “A Heart Full of Love”- I felt for all three characters. Whenever I think of Talia’s Eponine- it is not “On My Own” I think of: instead it is “A Little Fall of Rain”, which to me is a bit surprising. Usually when I think of Eponine- “On My Own” comes to mind. In “A Little Fall of Rain”- I did believe in it- each time Talia tried to move, I noticed it was a struggle for Talia’s Eponine, which got harder as the song continued- which made me believe in the scene. The US Tour was my cast after the West End- I came in with an open mind and was not going not to compare the two casts, which would have been a bad idea especially in the case of Eponine because I had an understudy.
Rafiki (I know the name, but can’t spell it)
- Rafiki was a very recent understudy- since I saw Lion King a year ago. She opens up the show- so getting a strong Rafiki is crucial. I loved her as well.
Eymard Cabling (The Engineer)
- He was my first Engineer, so my knowledge of this character all comes from him.
- How did I learn to have so much respect and appreciation for the standbys and understudies? For starters, it comes from having them so many times over the years. I learned just how talented they are. Some of them were my first actor/actress in these roles- for Katherine, The Engineer, Pippin, and The Leading Player. On the other hand, the Eponine, Jean Valjean, and Elphaba actors/actresses were NOT my first for those roles. One of the biggest reasons why I learned to respect them so much comes from the fact that I am a theater minor.