Understudy vs. Standby : Who makes the call?

anmiller07 Profile Photo
Leading Actor
I was just wondering, in the event that a principal is out, who makes the decision as to whether the understudy or the standby will go on? Is it the Stage Manager? Also, if there is an alternate, do they automatically go on (meaning an understudy may never go on)?
Kelly2 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
If there is a standby, usually the standby will go on. Because if the understudy goes on, they also need to put a swing on in that person's ensemble track.
"Get mad, then get over it." - Colin Powell
Tag Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
If the change happens close to curtain or during the show, it's the stage managers decision. Before that, there might be some input from the producers in consultation with the stage manager. The SM would better know the consequences of putting an ensemble understudy on as opposed to a standby/alternate (the domino effect of replacing a ensemble member, wardrobe & sound changes, etc.).

The decision to to put an ensemble understudy on instead of a standby/alternate has many factors, one of which is what are the swings doing. Are they already on for someone else, are there swings available to swing in for the ensemble track? If not it is easier to put on the alternate. Some of the decision also comes down to money. As any time someone goes on for their understudied or covered part, they get extra money.

Save $$$ on Tickets to: