Let’s Talk about Standbys and Understudies

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.

My Understudies:

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.

Conclusion:

  • 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.

All the Theaters I have Been to

It is known I have mostly seen musicals through Blumenthal Performing Art. What about all the theaters I have seen musicals? I decided to write a post that make a mention of ALL the theaters I have been to. However there is only ONE theater I don’t even know the name of.

St. Louis

  • Fox Theater- I have seen Annie and Fiddler and the Roof here. It is such a gorgeous theater. As you can see below, you can tell just how beautiful the theater is. I saw Annie in the orchestra and Fiddler up in the balcony- so I was able to fully appreciate the beauty of the Fox.

Greenville, South Carolina

  • Peace Center- I saw Phantom of the Opera and Les Mis at this beautiful theater. It has incredible acoustics- I was able to truly notice this when I saw Les Mis. Like Fox, I started in the orchestra with Phantom of the Opera, and my recent show, being Les Mis, I ended up in the balcony. It is incredible for that to happen. Both times I saw these shows were special- Phantom of the Opera was a date with mom and Les Mis was with my university. The reason why I was able to really notice how incredible the acoustics were in Les Mis belonged to the fact that I was sitting in the balcony (the 4th level)- to the way I heard a gunshot, to literally hearing just one tear (I literally was able to pick up on that), to the way just one word was said, or in more quieter moments still able to pick up on the words. Despite being in balcony- was able to hear everything.

Charlotte, NC- this is going to take a while

Blumenthal Performing Arts

Belk Theater- this is Blumenthal’s main theater. It has four levels- orchestra, grand tier, mezzanine, and balcony. I only remember sitting in orchestra and mezzanine. Not only does Belk do tours, it also does Charlotte Ballet events, and Charlotte Symphony Events. I saw Lion King, Miss Saigon, Newsies, Rent, Mamma Mia, Sound of Music, La Cage, Porgy and Bess, and Pippin at Belk Theater- most of these musicals are ones that I LOVE. It might seem like Belk Theater is the biggest theater of Blumenthal Performing Arts, but it actually isn’t.

Ovens Auditorium- What was surprising to me is that Ovens is actually the biggest Blumenthal Performing Arts theater. Ovens does have less levels than Belk. It has only two levels, but three sections- Mezzanine and Balcony share the second level. What makes Ovens a bigger theatre? Ovens is wider and deeper compared to Belk making it able to fit more people. I have seen only three musicals here- even though it feels like I have gone to Ovens more often than that. I think that is because one of those musicals is a repeat.

I have seen Addams Family, A Christmas Story, and Wicked here. I did not see shows at Ovens three times- it actually would add up to five times: Wicked was seen three times. The BEST area to see a musical at Ovens is in the Mezzanine. I have seen Wicked as a date with my dad and with my university- those are the other two times after my first time seeing Wicked at Ovens. Blumenthal’s upcoming season has more shows at Ovens then there typically is.

Central Piedmont Community College

Pease Auditorium- this theatre no longer exists at Charlotte’s community college, but when I was a student there, it did. My first musical I saw when I started college was Godspell. It is actually one of the smallest theaters I have seen a musical in. I still remember some of the costumes. Loved the show- three of those actors would show up in later productions I would see at CPCC.

Halton Theater- this may be a community college theater, but it actually has an orchestra and a balcony. I have seen Les Mis, Oklahoma, Grease, and Newsies at this theater. This shows all felt professional- you never once though you were at a community college’s theater. They combined students with the community and with professionals. I have seen Les Mis three times at this theater-once with family and twice as an usher: this was my first time seeing the stage show, and as a matter of fact was truly the motor for wanting to see the musical in London. CPCC has a very strong theater program- you go in, and you believe you are just going to see a community college type of production, and you come out thinking you just watched a professional production: that is what all four shows felt like.

Children’s Theatre
  • When I was an usher for Children’s Theatre, I did get to see one of their musicals. It was in December 2014, and I was ushering for Scrooge, which is A Christmas Carol’s musical. I remember seeing it, but don’t exactly remember any of the songs. There is something I do remember- I remember how talented the Tiny Tim was- there was a particular song that belonged to him, and I loved his voice in that song, and I was moved by it.

Boiling Springs, NC

  • Dover Theater- Boiling Springs is literally in the middle of nowhere. Dover Theater is where I saw musicals in Gardner Webb. The two musicals I saw were Little Shop of Horrors and Music Man. Music Man was actually the first show I saw at Gardner Webb, which was one of the best starts- especially when you transferred in Spring Semester. Music Man began the BEST year of musicals. I actually was kind of nervous when it comes to GWU musicals- these were musicals after CPCC- by that point, I only saw Les Mis and Godspell. I loved Music Man’s production, and the show itself. GWU has a smaller theatre program, but still can put on well-done productions.

Abingdon, VA

Barter Theater- Okay, this is one of the theaters I don’t remember going to. I did see Oliver here, but I have no memory of seeing it. I only know about it because I was told.

Jacksonville, FL

  • Jacksonville Theater- I don’t even know the name of the theater I went to in Jacksonville. Just like Barter, I don’t even remember going. I think my parents said I went to Cats and Seussical here in elementary school.

New York City

  • Gershwin Theater- this was my first theater I ever saw Wicked in. Little did I know when I stepped foot in that theater that I would be changed “for good”. It was August 2006, and I was alone with my mom- that was a HUGE reason why it was special- just me and my mom. That is part of why Wicked is meaningful. It is not all of why Wicked is meaningful. I was only 12 at the time. The song, “Popular”, was my favorite song at the time. It has been 13 years since I have been to NYC- I think it is time to go back, but next time, I want to see more than one musical.
Gershwin Theater-Wicked

London-West End

  • Queens Theater- I will always view this theater as The Queens Theater. It was what I knew it as when I saw Les Mis. Just like seeing Wicked on Broadway with my mom, I was seeing Les Mis in the West End with my mom. I feel like things came full circle when I saw Les Mis in London. Not only was I with my mom, but I was dreaming a dream. I sat in the 9th row from the stage. Plus, Les Mis is not just a musical- it made me passionate about musicals. When I saw Queen’s Theater, I literally thought I was imagining- it still felt that way when I bought souvenirs to when I saw that I had an understudy as Valjean to entering the auditorium to seeing the set to sitting down to noticing how close I was. Nothing felt real- that was how surreal it felt. Then it happened- I heard it- that one note (or notes) from the orchestra- I knew this was no dream happening- it was a dream actually happening. The notes did tell me something= that it was going to be more than expected- how can just a few notes make you know that? Those notes were not lying- it was more than expected. It was 110% worth it. At the end, I went to stage door, and my playbill was signed by the actor (Adam Bayjou) who played Jean Valjean. No words to describe the ENTIRE experience. This happened July 30th, 2015.

Conclusion

  • I sure have been to a number of theaters. I purposely ended on the theaters I saw on Broadway and the West End. As you can see, I mostly see musicals in Charlotte, my hometown. There have been times where I do see a musical somewhere else besides Charlotte, but that is not common. I feel like I want to eventually go see a musical at St. Louis’ MUNY- which is an outdoor theater, and I want to go back to NYC. If I go back to NYC- I want to see more than one musical. I don’t have vivid memories of Broadway- I want stronger memories. It is time for me to go back to the city. I might live in the states, but NYC is not easy to get to- so I am glad that Charlotte has Blumenthal Performing Arts.

Favorite Male Musical Theatre Songs

While yesterday’s post talked about some of my favorite female songs, today I decided to write a list of some of my favorite male musical theatre songs. Like before- I will only include duets if it is a male/male duet.

  1. Empty Chairs at Empty Tables
  2. Red and Black
  3. Who Am I
  4. Bring Him Home
  5. What Have I Done
  6. Santa Fe
  7. Santa Fe (Prologue)
  8. Carrying the Banner
  9. The World Will Know
  10. Seize the Day
  11. Letter from the Refuge
  12. Music of the Night
  13. If I Can’t Love Her
  14. This Nearly Was Mine
  15. Some Enchanted Evening
  16. Endless Night
  17. What You Own
  18. One Song Glory
  19. I’ll Cover You
  20. Why God Why
  21. The Impossible Dream

Favorite Female Musical Theatre Songs

I have written posts about my favorite duets, favorite songs relating to emotions, favorite ensemble songs, favorite protagonist songs. However I don’t think I have written songs relating to just female and male characters. This will include duets if it is a female/female duet. Here are they are- some of my favorite female musical theatre songs. These are only coming from the stage shows.

  1. For Good
  2. Defying Gravity
  3. Wizard and I
  4. I’m Not That Girl
  5. Popular
  6. On My Own
  7. I Dreamed a Dream
  8. Castle on a Cloud
  9. Out Tonight
  10. Take Me or Leave Me
  11. Watch What Happens
  12. Think of Me
  13. Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again
  14. Tomorrow
  15. Home
  16. A Change in Me
  17. As Long as He Needs Me
  18. Let it Go
  19. True Love
  20. I Still Believe
  21. I’d Give my Life For You

This isn’t easy- each time I think of a song, I realize a male sings it with a female or it is a male only song. The next post, I will focus on the males.

What does it mean to be an Emotional Wreck in a Musical?

Yesterday, I watched the 25th anniversary concert film of Les Mis, and I was still an emotional wreck. That wasn’t my first time watching it- I have watched it “I believe over 25 times”. I own that film and the actual movie musical. What does it actually mean to be an emotional wreck watching a musical?

You know those musicals that hit you like a pile of bricks. The phrase “a pile of bricks” means you can’t help but tear up or feel absolutely heartbroken. You can’t help it- and each time you see those musicals, you feel the same way. You are devastated and heartbroken at the same songs and you can’t help but be in tears. That is what I mean by being an emotional wreck. I never have been an emotional wreck until a certain musical entered my life.

In the beginning, I wasn’t an emotional wreck with Les Mis. It was a response I built up over time. Some songs that were heartbreakers were only sad in the beginning- they took a year or so till I realized the truth. “I Dreamed a Dream”, “Come to Me”, “On My Own”, “A Little Fall of Rain”, “Drink With Me”, “Bring Him Home”, and “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” are songs I am crying during. I have listened to those songs “who knows how many times” and still hit like a pile of bricks. Les Mis makes me the biggest emotional wreck, but it isn’t the only emotional wreck musical that entered my life. I don’t think I will ever be immune to Les Mis.

The closest emotional wreck musical to Les Mis is Rent. Like Les Mis, Rent is meaningful. Rent entered my life extremely close to Les Mis. Songs like “Will I?”, “Your Eyes”, “Life Support”, “I’ll Cover You (Reprise)”, and “Without You” give a similar feel that the Les Mis songs give you. There are other songs that can drive me to tears- but they only have that capability if the musical is seen live- “One Song Glory” and “Rent” are two of two those songs. In 2017 when I saw Rent in person- I was almost as emotional as I usually am in Les Mis.

Miss Saigon was the next level down from Rent. I am emotional in more songs than both Rent and Les Mis. I saw Miss Saigon this year, and like expected, I was in tears or almost in tears during some of the numbers. The song I remember being in tears the most was during “Sun and Moon”- the actor and actress playing Chris and Kim were so good that I did not their relationship to end even though I knew it had to be.

It seems like the emotional wreck musicals exist in tragic musicals or musicals that are almost in that world. Even Phantom of the Opera has that capability. When I saw it back in 2014, I was choked up meaning I was almost in tears.

There are other songs that reduce me to tears- but not found in musicals that make me an emotional wreck. To make me an emotional wreck, it has to found in enough songs.

Parts of musicals that some people still fail to Understand

There are parts that some people still fail to understand. These tend to be the people that either a) don’t like musicals, b) like musicals, but don’t love them or c) not as passionate as others. What do I mean by parts of a musical that people still fail to understand? I am not talking about the unpopular opinions I already mentioned before. I will bring up what I mean below.

Spectacle/Dance

Some people don’t quite understand the importance of dance and spectacle in a musical. They feel like those shouldn’t be in musicals at all. Well- they do have a reason for being in there. There are settings that need spectacle- OZ, Agraghah (still can’t spell it right), and the Savannah. How will you believe in places like those if the spectacle didn’t exist? Spectacle belongs to lighting, colorful and fun costumes and set- they do make you believe in what you are seeing. Some settings need those or else you will not believe in what you are seeing. You know how song brings out emotion- dance does the same thing. From the surface, dance doesn’t just looks like it is there for enjoyment, but in reality- it has a reason. You need the spectacle and dance to bring the location and emotion to you.

Romance

I feel like these can easily be overshadowed. It is the love or hate emotion in books and on stage. It is believed that there is TOO MUCH ROMANCE in the musicals. True, there is romance in a lot of musicals, and most likely when you see a new musical, there will be romance. Romance exists either in the form or a couple or in a love triangle. Why is romance so common? For starters, it is an universal emotion. Second, it translates easily to song. When it translates to song, it creates these beautiful melodies- that is what makes me fall in love with a couple. I am more likely to fall in love with a musical theatre couple than a book couple. It is so much easier to find a couple in a musical than a book- because of song. Love songs are a combo dealing with a couple, breakup, and unrequited love- all are them beautiful songs. Let’s say it is a musical that has zero negative emotions in the score- the romance gives it an emotion feel- that is what music man does. There is a reason romance happens in all the musicals I love.

All my favorite Characters- per Letter

As a continuation of yesterday’s post, I decided to list all of my favorite characters of each letter of the alphabet. Yesterday, the limit belonged to only one character. This time, there is no limit. I think it will much easier this time around due to having no limit.

A- Annie, Anna (Frozen), Angel, Aladdin

B- Belle, Beast

C- Crutchie, Cosette, Cogsworth, Chip, Christine, Chris

D- Davey, Don Quixote, Daddy Warbucks

E- Elphaba, Eponine, Enjolras, Elsa

F- Fiyero, Fantine

G- Glinda, Gavroche, Grizabella, Groups (Newsies/Friends of the ABC)

H- Harold Hill

I- N/A

J- Jack Kelly, Jean Valjean, Jasmine

K- Katherine Plumber, Kim (Miss Saigon)

L- Lumiere

M- Maria (Sound of Music), Marius, Marian, Mimi, Mrs. Potts

N- Nala

O- Oliver

P- Pippin, Pumba

Q- N/A

R- Raoul, Roger

S- Simba, Sancho Panza

T- Timon

U- N/A

V- Von Trapp Children

W- Winthrop

X- N/A

Y- Young Cosette

Z- Zazu

Conclusion:

I feel like I love more characters than the ones I listed. This is just all I can think of for now. Yes, for “G” I said groups, but I didn’t know where else to put them. It is amazing how for some letters, the number of characters is bigger.