Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Curse Of The Understudy: Part V

Curse Of The Understudy: Part V

As regular readers know, I’m currently vacationing in Australia. One major impetus for this trip was to take in the Australian production of Wicked, which opened earlier this month at Melbourne’s lovely Regent Theatre. I caught this past Sunday’s matinee performance.

While I’ll provide my SOB Revisit on the actual show shortly, I was a bit disappointed to learn that this incarnation’s Elphaba, regularly played by Amanda Harrison, was out of the show for my performance. In Harrison’s place was her standby Jemma Stevenson, who delivered a mostly competent take as the green witch.

Given how decent she was, I was somewhat surprised when my friends informed me that in the two times they had now seen the Melbourne production -- first in previews and then with me on Sunday afternoon -- how vastly Stevenson’s performance as Elphaba had improved. (She may have simply been getting her bearings as it appears she has portrayed the green one in the Japanese production). What struck me even more is that they had now seen the show twice in its relatively short run, but somehow had missed out on Ms. Harrison both times.

I took Harrison’s absence in stride and enjoyed the show. Well, most of the show.

You see, about one half hour into the first act -- right smack dab in the midst of the engagingly funny “Loathing” number -- the Regent Theatre’s ushers elected to show the latecomers seated right next to me, in the second row center, no less, to their seats. Only problem was that there were but two seats and three people.

The whole matter was incredibly disruptive, not only for those of us in my row who needed to constantly stand up to let the offending latercomers in, but even more so for the poor ticket holders in the rows immediately behind us.

There was a lot of standing and shuffling as the three individuals made their way in and out of the row, all while the usher tried to figure out who was really supposed to be seated there. Needless to say, this fiasco took away from the performances taking place less than twenty feet in front of us for everyone seated around us.

Shame on the Regent Theatre’s ushers for not finding a more appropriate time to seat their guests, as well as for not having the tickets properly sorted before venturing down the aisle.

And shame on patrons for arriving late. I’m reminded of what Barry Humphries as Dame Edna once (and quite possibly often) said to a couple of latecomers to his Broadway show in 2000. “Where are you coming from dears? Oh, across town? Well, I came all the way from Australia and still made it here on time.”

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
Feeling A Little Wicked: On The Edge Of Oz (July 25, 2008)
Something Wicked This Way Opens In Australia (July 12, 2008)
Curse Of The Understudy - Part IV (April 24, 2008)
Curse Of The Understudy - Part III (July 23, 2007)
Wicked To Finally Land In Oz During 2008 (May 16, 2007)
The Curse Of The Understudy - Part II (January 15, 2007)
The Curse Of The Understudy (October 2, 2006)

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At 29 July, 2008, OpenID crossoverman said...

Harrison went on for the Sunday evening performance, but due to illness had to be replaced for Act II by Jemma.

I don't know what happens on Broadway, but I know here the actors are contracted to appear in 7 of the 8 shows per week - with illness being a good reason for missing any other shows. And many of the understudies have had their chance on stage for Wicked: Melbourne, during the rehearsals and the three weeks since opening. With four performances scheduled on the weekend, I guess if the actors are going to elect to miss a show it would likely be one of the weekend matinees - particularly if illness is affecting their stamina.

That's terrible what happened with the usher and the latecomers, though. That should never happen.

At 29 July, 2008, Blogger Dale said...

I remember Dame Edna's crack about latecomers from her Toronto visit with her show. I always think the ticket should read 'Latecomers will not be seated'. Period.

At 29 July, 2008, Anonymous BroadwayBaby said...

London WestEnd theatre seems to be the most egregious in terms of the understudy curse. I remember going to see Jerry Springer The Opera and literally 4 people being out!

Interesting to note that compared to Broadway, West end actors are poorly paid so maybe they are more apt to use their sick time.

At 29 July, 2008, OpenID crossoverman said...

I noticed on the West End Wicked site, they post when a performer is going to be out - the woman playing Glinda has dates scheduled between now and Christmas when she'll be off. Interesting that it would be that well advertised, but good for audiences who want to see her.

At 30 July, 2008, Blogger Vance said...

I just saw South Pacific, bought my tickets way back when, and was annoyed when Kelly OHara was out from a planned vacation. They couldn't have warned us when I bought tickets? And while I thought the understudy was good, I'm not sure she captivated me and wonder if OHara might have been a bit more enchanting.

The first time I saw Wicked, I got the understudy (it was supposed to be Stephanie J Block) and was TOTALLY disappointed and hated the show. But then saw it on Broadway with Block and it felt like a totally different show and now I don't mind Wicked... funny how it can all change ones perspectives.

As the the late thing. They should be seated at the back or standing room only or something. I hate latecomers.

At 31 July, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

we have seen wicked 4 times now and we love the show it is amazing...but we all think jemma is the better Elphba...she is amazing................and we will go back and see her again.

At 03 August, 2008, Blogger katya said...

I'm so sorry that your experience was marred by latecomers and poor handling of them. I've seen this production three times and have loved it each time. I've only heard of three of the understudies going on - for Amanda, Lucy and Anthony, mainly through illness, which is unavoidable. When I was there a couple of weeks ago, Lucy and Amanda seemed to be alternating for the matinees so you always saw one or the other. I've heard that the understudies are very good, as one would expect, but I hope that you'll see the full Principal cast as they're amazing. Amanda and Anthony have superb voices and Lucy's comic timing is excellent.


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