“We sympathise with the writer of your recent letter about understudies. Sadly weekday matinees are both the likeliest time for school parties to attend, and the usual time of the week for substitutes to be inserted. In some cases this is to ensure that relatively inexperienced performers do not overstretch themselves. We had similar anxieties recently going to see Phantom of the Opera. In our case the performers were not household names by any means, but we were desperate to see John Owen-Jones and Sofia Escobar having admired them in other productions. We agree that there is now a bizarre two-tier ‘star system’ in operation in the West End. Our advice regarding merchandise is – don’t buy it! If the performance was truly memorable you won’t need it. And you certainly don’t need to pay top price for tickets. It only encourages producers to keep putting the prices up. We notice that the writer does not mention whether the understudies were any good. Our guess is that they were likely to be equally up to the task, and if this was the case, perhaps it would have made an interesting debate for his students, after all, Lee Mead himself was an understudy once. Of course there is no accounting for taste – we are waiting for a cast change before we go to see Wicked.”
What do you think? Has anyone out there enjoyed the understudy more than the ‘star’?
Update 8.2.11: See our letter on The Stage website