Slightly off topic maybe but I often wonder how understudies stay fit and ready to go on at a couple of hours notice. They can learn the lines and the songs but they need to know where to be on the stage and that might need the whole company to rehearse - when would they do that when a show is on 8 times a week? Shows also have a second understudy in case things go really wrong, it must be even worse for them. It's not as if understudies get a regular go, say every Wednesday that is publicised in advance. It sounds like a tough job to me. Has anyone ever seen an understudy screw it up because they were under-rehearsed? Or maybe it's not as tough for experienced pros as I am thinking?
Of course it's tough. Which is why in my opinion swings deserve so much more praise than they usually get. As for rehearsals: Understudies rehearse the full show with the rest of the company. That's what daytime is for. Obviously it's not uncommon for an understudy to go on before they've had a full run through. On every occasion I've seen it happen it has been absolutely fine bar some minor mistakes (but it's live theatre after all).
War Horse had an interesting way of understudying for the ensemble called the knock on where instead of having people covering one track they had different people covering different part depending on what they were doing in that scene or the next and then somebody might cover for something they would usually do. That's because they didn't really have swings. Everyday every department would receive a long list of who was playing what when. It sometimes just was a line said by somebody else. But it meant every department had to work out how to amend their plot to make sure everyone was on stage with everything they needed at the right time.
I did recently see an understudy in the West End forget his lines. It is a fairly minor role in the show, so he doesn't actually have many lines to remember, and I guess everyone brain freezes at some point. But unfortunately these particular lines were quite important as all the other characters in the on-stage crowd were meant cheer and react to them. Instead, there was a long and totally awkward silence, after which the other characters all cheered loudly at nothing :-$
- Donna Steele in Thoroughly Modern Millie. I'm not surprised to hear from Steffi that Miles was better than Amanda Holden.
- Edward Bennett on London Press Night in the RSC's Hamlet. I'd already seen Tennant, but anxiously watched praying Ed would get through it okay (which of course he did).
- John Hastings in The Homecoming (in place of John Simm). I went back to see Simm and thought they were both excellent in that role.
- I've been to a few understudy performances at the RSC, which can be a fascinating alternative. During a season where I grew tired of Greg Hicks, I chose to see the understudy version of Lear. I also loved the understudy RII in 2013 with Oliver Rix as Richard.
It's a tough one. If I'd booked for a specific actor and had no other opportunity to go back then I'd likely to gutted. I'm lucky to have more chance of going again living in London.
Last Edit: May 11, 2016 15:49:25 GMT by vickster51
Yes to Rachel John in Memphis Yes to Niall Sheehy as Chris in Miss Saigon
And I'll throw in a Fra Fee as Marius in Les Mis, standing in for Craig Mather. I liked both of them in the role, saw Craig a couple of times during his run, interesting to see he's back in it this cast change. May need to go again.