Given the frankly ridiculous actions of the Menier Chocolate Factory this week when Sheridan Smith was unable to complete the run of Funny Girl, I thought it was about time to continue this series of posts (see 1, 2 and 3 for completeness).
Understudies are what keep theatres running. The amount of times recently at Sunny Afternoon alone that I’ve seen last-minute covers, and even mid-show takeovers, are testament to these superheroes’ skill, talent & commitment to their art. No theatre should have to apologise that one of their principal cast members is off – to me that is insulting to the hard work of the understudy stepping in, and the rest of the company. By making such public apologies, it makes productions about the star rather than the show. And sets a potentially dangerous precedent. Unless you’re friends with or family of said star, you should be going to see the show rather than a particular person. It can be disappointing, but you have to just get on with it!
Recently we celebrated Sunny Afternoon’s understudies with a dedicated ‘Team B week’, and from March the fan page will be celebrating both cast member & understudy of the month. Our current Team B star in the spotlight is Lloyd Gorman, cover Piven, Page, Kassner & Mr Davies/Klein. The Theatre Tourist wrote a lovely piece as a tribute during Team B week.
When I last wrote one of these blogs, I’d only seen Lloyd as Piven – but since then I’ve ticked off his Page and Kassner! What is very striking is his confidence in taking these parts on, not only competently but adding his own special twists. Even having a bit of fun ad-libbing! It was great to see him drumming in his stints as Kassner; the amount of skills in these people’s armouries is truly incredible. So all that’s left is to see him as Mr Davies/Klein! It seems rather unlikely, but never say never…
After having seen Alex Tosh take on the double act of Wace & Collins within a couple of weeks of each other, yesterday I had the very unexpected pleasure of seeing him step up as Pete for the evening show! This is something Jess & I had always wanted Silas to get the chance to do, but it never happened (and apparently he is an amazing bass player). Finally seeing a second cover Pete was an absolute dream!
There were understandably some nerves there, but they seemed to be kept internal for the most part – and channelled to great effect in portraying Pete’s vulnerability. In particular I think this worked wonderfully for A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy. I was sat in row F so had a perfect view, and as Alex stepped onto the hanamichi for that section of the song I was done for. It’s become something of a test: if you can make me cry, you’re doing something right! He also has a brilliant sense of comedy, getting a lot of laughs, and gave a particularly entertaining “Just keep going!” at the end of act one. Yet another ridiculous talent that has been found by Sunny’s casting team.
But my really big breakthrough with Team B came a couple of weeks ago. Robbie White completed the set & became The Kinks by playing Mick!
I’ve extolled his virtues as the other Kinks before, but this is the one role I was really curious about seeing him in. What with being a drum fan an’ all… Thinking that this scenario would never happen meant I inadvertently piled the pressure on him from last summer by pointing this out! And ensuring he knew that the drum solo was my favourite part of the show. Whoops! But… As it turned out, he had a couple of shows to warm into it before I was able to see him – and then I couldn’t resist going the next night on the off-chance I might get a second viewing!
A very angry Mick was back in the building, and it couldn’t have made me happier. The final scene in Cardiff was spectacular (Olly seemed amused about having a new Mick to beat him up!). And the drum solo… It really was brilliant. As with his interpretation of the role it was a blend of influences from previous Micks, combined with his own new choices. Touchingly he had remembered my love of the drum solo and seemed quite proud of the one I first got to see! And I was extremely proud of his achievements in return. It’s almost unthinkable that anyone could play those four very different characters so convincingly – Robbie is possibly the only person around who could do them justice.
It’s fair to say that this was exciting news across Twitter…
So, if you’re ever at Sunny Afternoon and you see one of their cover notices displayed in the foyer (it is a pretty regular occurrence at the moment) you can be certain you’re in for a good night. No need for ticket exchanges or refunds at the Harold Pinter Theatre!