re: Standby vs. Understudy

Derech2 Profile Photo
Featured Actor
Standby vs. Understudy
Posted: 3/17/05 at 07:53pm
I've almost half figured it out myself, but the question has been killing me. What is the difference between an understudy and a standby? Who does more shows? Are most of the actors/actresses you hear about playing under the normal character understudies or standbys (i.e. was Shoshana Bean understudy for Elphaba)? And is there a difference between standby and stand in?

Thanks for the help
Coimhéad fearg fhear na foighde.
re: Standby vs. Understudy
Posted: 3/17/05 at 07:55pm
A standby is not in the show and has first priority when the lead is sick. The understudy is usually an ensemble member who performs if the standby is sick or on vacation.
Broadway Legend
re: Standby vs. Understudy
Posted: 3/17/05 at 07:56pm
Usually, an understudy performs in the ensemble of the show.

A standby does not. They just hang out in case they are needed.

By the way, Shoshana Bean was the STANDBY for Elphaba, not the understudy.
Broadway Star
re: Standby vs. Understudy
Posted: 3/17/05 at 07:59pm
Standby performs during vacations and when they are sick I believe.
Oscar Jaffee Profile Photo
Oscar Jaffee
re: Standby vs. Understudy
Posted: 3/17/05 at 08:11pm
Aren't there exceptions? I remember that George Lee Andrews was John Cullum's standby in "On the Twentieth Century." Andrews also played the role of Max Jacobs.
Broadway Legend
re: Standby vs. Understudy
Posted: 3/17/05 at 08:13pm
In THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, John Cudia (who plays Raoul) is also the first understudy for The Phantom.
Broadway Legend
re: Standby vs. Understudy
Posted: 3/17/05 at 08:17pm
Not every show has stand-bys. Usually only a demanding lead role will have a stand-by.
CCM '10!
Broadway Legend
re: Standby vs. Understudy
Posted: 3/18/05 at 04:56pm
hmmm... only a demanding lead role will have a stand-by??? hmmm... when I saw the national tour of Aida, all the three leads had a standby... now I could see it for the title role, but why the hell does Radames and Amneris need a stand-by... well in my opinion it doesn't quite need a standby...
Leading Actor
re: Standby vs. Understudy
Posted: 3/18/05 at 06:57pm
OK---a similar question---What is a swing? Are they ensemble members who fill in for lesser roles and basically are understudies for any role other than the lead?
ShuQ Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
re: Standby vs. Understudy
Posted: 3/18/05 at 07:02pm
From what I've been told. Swings fill in for ensemble members when they are out or when ensemble members fill in as understudies.
Leading Actor
re: Standby vs. Understudy
Posted: 3/18/05 at 07:11pm
I believe the term standby also has to do with the kind of contract and pay that you recieve for covering a role.

For instance: George Lee Andrews was credited as standby for Oscar Jafee when he was also playing the supporting role of Max Jacobs daily.

Ditto that for Miss Helen Gallagher in the original Sweet Charity where usually she was Nickie, but was also the "standby" for Gwen Verdon's Charity. Ditto that for the 1986 revival. Bebe Neuwirth was standby to Debbie Allen as Charity while nightly essaying Nickie.

(One wonders if Charlotte d'Amboise does indeed become Broadway's permanent Charity if the ideally suited Janine LaManna will become her standby).

I think it depends on the contract that you are given, etc. etc. etc. as well as what you are doing at 8PM everynight when the show starts.
Broadway Star
re: Standby vs. Understudy
Posted: 3/19/05 at 10:54am
a standby traditionally is someone of some name recognition who does not have a part in the show, until the "star" name is out. For instance, Gretchen Wyler stoodby for Lauren Bacall in APPLAUSE, Bibi Osterwald stoodby for HELLO DOLLY and Thelma Carptener for Pearl Bailey's Dolly.

Simply put, in the past anyway, a standby was someone with some name recognition, who would fill in for the star and hopefully the standby's own name recognition would help keep people from wanting refunds at the box office.

At a very young age, Elaine Stritch was the standby for Ethel Merman in CALL ME MADAM. Stritch talks about it in her one woman show..........

In more recent years.....the "title" of standby has been given to some people who were "actually understudies," meaning that they performed a "smaller part" in the show and "went on" for a leading player who was out. Normally, this performer would be called an understudy.

Apparently, the terms have had some variance in usage in the last few decades. Some folks here have mentioned people being called standbys in shows where the "standby" was performing another part. In strict theater parlance, this would be an understudy. However, I suspect certain folks have "negotiated" and perhaps get paid a bit more when performing a smaller part in the show and "understudying" a lead and have also negotiated to be called a "standby" for the lead as opposed to understudy. :)
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