Actors/Actresses who get Underestimated

In the musical theatre world, there are a LOT of talented actors and actresses, but a number of them get underestimated. They are NOT given the respect they deserve or are believed they don’t have talent. I will talk about those kind of people on this post.

Understudies/ Standbys/Swings:

Understudies are super IMPORTANT in the musical theatre world. Without them, theatre would be in trouble. More shows would be cancelled. These actors/actresses are believed to NOT have much TALENT at all. I believe in so many ways, they almost have MORE talent than the main actor and actress- I am saying that because the understudies have to memorize more. I have seen a number of understudies and have truly learned to respect them- Grace Morgan (Christine), Lisa Karlin (Leading Player), Sam Lips (Pippin), Adam Bayjou (Jean Valjean), Mary Kate Morrissey (Elphaba), Kaitlyn Frank (Katherine Plumber), Talia Simone Robinson (Eponine), and my recent Rafiki and Pumba (only said it like that because don’t know the names of the understudies). All of the people I said except for Mary Kate Morrissey are understudies- every night, they usually are in the ensemble- so not only do they have to memorize their ensemble track- they also have to memorize the roles that they understudy. Even though Mary Kate Morrissey only had to memorize Elphaba, it is still just as hard. The characters they were playing were either characters I was discovering for the first time or characters that I was not. These actors/actresses are highly underappreciated- I saw them from the years 2014-2018.

As for the swings, they have to work even harder than the understudies. They have to cover ALL the ensemble roles. That is very difficult to do- having to memorize all of that- that takes a lot of talent to memorize all of that. To be able to memorize each of the ensemble’s members’ blocking and lines- have no idea how they do it.


Yes, I said the ensemble. Some people might think the lead roles are MORE important than the ensemble, but the vast MAJORITY of the cast is found in the ensemble. Sometimes, someone from an ensemble becomes a lead in the future. The ensemble is where you find the understudies. They are just as important as the leads. Yes, it is the leads we memorize the actors/actresses’ names, but we still have to understand the importance of the ensemble. They form so many important characters- like students, newsboys, citizens, etc.- you get the picture. It is why we are able to have the dance.

Child Actors:

I believe that some people think that the child actors/actresses don’t work as hard or don’t have the talent that the other cast members do. Some people don’t’ want to see shows like Annie all because it has too many child actresses in it. The children work just as hard as the other actors- they are a part of other musicals- Annie, A Christmas Story, Les Mis, Music Man, Pippin, Sound of Music, Oliver. Don’t look at them any less than anyone else.

These actors/actresses- the understudies, the standbys, the swings, the ensemble, and the children should never be under-appreciated. There is a lot of talent on stage- in everyone. That cast has worked so hard- to the audience, the cast makes it look easy, but in reality you have no idea how much work they put into creating that show. Appreciate everyone- respect everyone.

Hard Work of a Musical Actor

The word pretend truly reminds of how much work an actor needs to do in order to get into character. Each time I see a musical live, I am surprised at what an actor is able to do. In the past two years, I have seen six different musicals which are Music Man, Pippin, Newsies, Sound of Music, Wicked, and Les Mis. In these shows, the actors need to live the character’s lives eight times a week. The characters from these shows have been either comic, tragic, dramatic, romantic, etc. In all six of these musicals, there were both simple and complex characters. Some of the characters from these musicals were simple such as Winthrop , Theo, and the younger Von Trapp Children and some were more complex such as Elphaba, Glinda, Jean Valjean and Eponine.

In some of those musicals, characters age over a wide range of time such as Javert and Jean Valjean. In that same musical, even Cosette and Eponine get older over a nine year gap. In some of the character’s lives of these musicals, some tragically die, but while several characters die in Les Mis, their deaths are memorable. I cannot imagine what it is like to portray the tragic characters where you have to die eight times a week and where the character lives a very unfortunate life.

Some of these characters do not live tragic lives, but live a life filled with conflict and hardship and these are characters such as Elphaba and all of the Newsies. For the Newsies, that is especially difficult on Crutchie as he has a bum leg and has to rely on crutch. That makes him more vulnerable to certain situations, but he has such spirit and helps keep the group together and truly depends on Jack Kelly. Elphaba has to face a life of being a outcast all because she is green, but at least she finds love in Fiyero and friendship in Glinda.

Some of the actors from these musicals had to learn to dance and others had to know how to do aerobatics. I was the most impressed with the dancing from Newsies because it blows your mind away and those actors are jumping high, jumping over each other, back flips among other incredible things. I may have loved the dancing from Newsies the most, but I still loved the dancing and spectacle of Wicked along with the circus and dance elements of Pippin

Newsies was the only cast where the entire cast was basically all male and only like three females. I did love the other casts as well especially the ones from Les Mis and Wicked. When it comes to Les Mis and Wicked, I have high expectations. In Wicked, I saw one of the best Glinda and Elphaba pairings and they delivered “For Good” perfectly. As for Les Mis, I did have higher expectations only because I was seeing the show in the West End and the thing I truly wanted from the West End production was that the emotions needed to truly and deeply and powerfully move me. I was living my dream by seeing it in the West End and the entire cast delivered and that was the best cast I ever saw live.

Sometimes I get the most impressed by the understudies. In Newsies, Wicked, Les Mis, and Pippin, there were understudies for lead characters. Those characters were Pippin and the Leading Player from Pippin, Jean Valjean from Les Mis, Elphaba from Wicked, and Katherine from Newsies. Those understudies have to memorize more then everyone else and have to memorize different blocking depending on if they are one for a lead character or if they are one for their ensemble track. They are not always in for the character they understudy for, which means they have less opportunities. In fact, I was impressed with all of these understudies. All of these understudies truly impressed me mainly Jean Valjean, Leading Player, and Elphaba. Some people tend to forget how much harder these actors need to work compared to the regular actor in for a role. For an understudy to play Valjean or Elphaba, it can be quite scary to fill in the shoes of the main actor. Elphaba and Valjean are two of the most complex and demanding and well-known roles.

It takes way more then the actor alone to get into character. It even takes all of the work of the backstage crew to help them get into character. It helps when they actually look like the character through their costume and makeup. Backstage crew helps any lead or ensemble members handle the quick changes because characters go through more then one costume through the course of one show.

It takes several rehearsals to understand the particular production. The actors have to memorize lines, choreography,  blocking, and truly understand the character. You have to learn to portray the character in a way that makes it your own, but at the same time stays true to the character and lives up to the audience’s expectations. They need to express what the character is feeling along with what kind of a life the character lives. In musicals like Wicked and Les Mis, there is a lot of pressure for the actor because the characters are so well-loved by many. It is so cool how actors truly make the story come alive each and every night and the characters become real to you. The actors truly rely on the audience because the audience helps them make choices due to their reactions. There are many wonderful things to say about actors and so blessed that they are willing to tell their character’s stories over the course of a year and eight times a week. Think about how hard it can be to portray a complex character compared to a simple or how hard it can be to portray a character who has a very miserable and tragic life.