Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Stunt Casting That Has Me Reeling

Stunt Casting That Has Me Reeling

As I've previously written, I'm more than a little dubious on the merits of stunt casting established theatrical shows. While I can understand the desire of producers to attract new audiences, I see little merit in casting shows with actors who simply don't have the gravitas or appropriate age or chops.

Last night, 70s heartthrob Donny Osmond took on the role of Gaston in Disney's Beauty And The Beast. Apparently, it doesn't matter that the guy -- who over thirty years ago was boasting he was "a little bit rock and roll" -- will turn 50 years old next year. I've always envisioned Gaston as being the young, rugged type. I have nothing against Osmond, and you could argue that his prolific family suggests he's pretty virile, but I find it appalling that he would be portraying a character better suited to someone half his his son Donny Osmond, Jr. To be honest, I'd rather see the elder Osmond play Billy Flynn in Chicago.

Speaking of which, today it was announced that The Newsless 56-year-old Huey Lewis would be returning to that decade-old tuner on November 20 and remain with the show until January 14. During the last two weeks of his upcoming stint, he'll co-star with Bebe Neuwirth who's set to play Roxie Hart. Thanks to Neuwirth's exciting return, I already have my tickets to see her opposite Lewis' Billy Flynn along with an as-yet-to-be-announced actress in the role of Velma Kelly.

Lewis' return to Chicago will occur just over a month after Usher's scheduled departure (Usher has just extended through October 14). Sure the young R&B crooner exudes charm. Even critics were at least impressed by his charisma. But the role of Billy Flynn represents the complete flipside of the Gaston coin. As critics have thankfully noted, Flynn should be inhabited by a much more world-weary, jaded and older type. Not someone half Huey Lewis' age! Maybe Disney could enlist Usher for Beauty And The Beast. It's just a thought.

Finally, even the British stage isn't immune to stunt casting as we saw earlier this summer with Patrick Swayze being cast in Guys And Dolls. It should come as no surprise that the West End staging of Chicago is once again engaging in the practice, this time with 22-year-old lip-synching extraordinaire Ashlee Simpson as Roxie Hart. Enough said!

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for Beauty And The Beast tickets.
Click here for Chicago (Broadway) tickets.
Click here for Chicago (London) tickets.
Related Stories:
Bebe's Back to Broadway! (September 6, 2006)
Will Usher Razzle Dazzle 'em? (August 22, 2006)
Does London's Guys and Dolls Still Swayze Critics? (August 19, 2006)
We Had It Coming: Chicago's Starry 10th Anniversary (July 26, 2006)
Chicago to Usher in New Billy Flynn (July 14, 2006)
Swayze Lands London's Detroit Role (June 5, 2006)

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At 20 September, 2006, Blogger Erica said...

I'm at a loss for words. I understand that stunt casting can push new life into a slowing show, but I worry what it is doing to the quality. Maybe it attracts new fans to the theater, and it certainly must be working for it to continue.

At 20 September, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Erica, I agree.

In television, there's the expression that a show has "jumped the shark" when a popular show has reached a defining moment where the show has reached its peak and it's all downhill from there. I consider stunt casting to he a similar defining moment for theatre.

At 22 September, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

A friend of mine just came up with a decidedly geriatric version of stunt-casting for Chicago. Because he's apparently too shy to post, here's what he had to say in a private message to me:

"Okay, let's say Barry and Fran come up with this.........
Larry King as Billy Flynn
Elaine Stritch as Mama Morton
Kitty Carlisle and Angela Lansbury as Roxie and Velma.......
Carol Channing as Mary Sunshine and Dan Rather doing Mr.
You'd look outside at a Wednesday matinee and think they were re-shooting a scene from 'The Producers.' The ushers will all have defibrillators on their backs."


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