Many of you might have read my blog “Understudies deserve more respect!” a few months ago. The issue I discussed there was that some people thought of understudies as being not good enough because they were ‘only’ understudies. Today, my attention has yet again been drawn to understudies.
As you all know, understudies take over a principal role whenever the leading actor is not able to perform for whatever reason. It is an incredibly difficult job, because not only do they need to be prepared to go on at any given time, they also usually have their own role in the production.
However, sometimes big stars with little theatre experience are cast in musicals. Very often this will mean that because of their lack of experience, they end up missing many performances, meaning the understudy has to take their place. In some cases, the understudy ends up doing more shows than the leading actor. That is all fine, but today I saw that a particular star was nominated for an award, while their understudy has performed in the majority of the shows, yet are left with nothing.
For example, today it was announced that Amber Riley was nominated for a “The Stage Debut Award” for her role as Effie in Dreamgirls, while her understudy, Marisha Wallace has done a very large amount of shows. In my opinion this feels a bit strange.
I don’t mean to say that Amber Riley didn’t deserve to get nominated. Because she is obviously very good if she got nominated. But I also feel that understudies getting no acknowledgement is unacceptable. I know there are some independent theatre websites who do give out awards for understudies, and I commend them for that. But I think the bigger awards ceremonies have to follow their example and create a category specifically for understudies. They work just as hard, if not harder, than the lead actors do. And they therefore deserve just as much respect.
Please let us know your opinion on the matter.
Written by Dries Janssens: @DriesJanssens3