Musical Theatre Historian Jennifer Ashley Tepper Shares 30 Brilliant Reasons to be Excited to See an Understudy

Article Pixel

Jennifer Ashley Tepper, the always on-point musical theatre historian, author of THE UNTOLD STORIES OF BROADWAY book series, and Director of Programming at 54 Below, has taken on one of the stage's biggest misconceptions in a wildly popular new social media list: the idea that seeing an understudy in a role is somehow a lesser experience than witnessing the principal actor's take.

On Facebook, Tepper put the whole issue into perfect perspective:

"Were you mad the last time you saw an understudy slip?

Were you mad the last time you heard an announcement that an alternate would be going on?

Here are 30 reasons why you should be very excited instead. Are you ready?

1. Did you see Rebecca Luker's understudy in The Sound of Music?
Then you saw Laura Benanti!

2. Did you see a Sheila understudy in the original run of Hair?
Then you saw Diane Keaton!

3. Did you see a Dainty June understudy in the second national tour of Gypsy?
Then you saw Bernadette Peters!

4. Did you see a Radames understudy during the run of Aida?
Then you probably saw Will Chase or Cheyenne Jackson!

5. Did you see Judy Kaye's understudy in On The 20th Century?
Then you saw Christine Ebersole!

6. Did you see an understudy for either of the two leading ladies in Jekyll and Hyde?
Then you probably saw Emily Skinner, Kate Shindle, or Kelli O'Hara!

7. Did you see a Sandy or Rizzo understudy in the 1994 Grease revival?
Then you saw Sutton Foster!

8. Did you see Laura Bell Bundy's understudy in Ruthless?
Then you saw Natalie Portman or Britney Spears!

9. Did you see Sheryl Lee Ralph's understudy in Dreamgirls?
Then you saw Phylicia Rashad!

10. Did you see Carol Haney's understudy in Pajama Game?
Then you saw Shirley MacLaine!

11. Did you see an understudy for Chuck Cranston in Footloose?
Then you saw the Broadway debut of Matthew Morrison!

12. Did you see Gavin Creel's understudy in Hair?
Then you saw the Broadway debut of Jay Armstrong Johnson!

13. Did you see Laurence Olivier's understudy in Dance of Death at the Royal National?
Then you saw Anthony Hopkins!

14. Did you see Eartha Kitt's understudy in Shinbone Alley?
Then you saw Chita Rivera!

15. Did you see Anthony Rapp or Adam Pascal's understudy in Rent?
Then you saw Norbert Leo Butz!

16. Did you see Mary Martin's understudy in South Pacific?
Then you saw Cloris Leachman!

17. Did you see Faith Prince's understudy in Guys and Dolls?
Then you saw Victoria Clark!

18. Did you see an understudy during the original run of Drood?
Then you probably saw Judy Kuhn or Donna Murphy!

19. Did you see Jill Clayburgh's understudy in Pippin?
Then you saw Ann Reinking!

20. Did you see a Cassie understudy during the original run of A Chorus Line?
Then you probably saw Bebe Neuwirth or Karen Ziemba!

21. Did you see a Peggy Sawyer understudy in 42nd Street in London?
Then you saw Catherine Zeta-Jones!

22. Did you see a Chava understudy in the last Fiddler on the Roof revival?
Then you saw Lea Michele!

23. Did you see Christopher J. Hanke's understudy in In My Life?
Then you saw Jonathan Groff!

24. Did you see a Danny Zuko understudy during the original run of Grease?
Then you probably saw Richard Gere!

25. Did you see Ethel Merman's understudy in Anything Goes?
Then you saw Vivian Vance!

26. Did you see a Jigger understudy in the Carousel revival?
Then you saw the Broadway debut of Taye Diggs! Or you saw Brian D'Arcy James!

27. Did you see Matthew Hydzik's alternate in the West Side Story revival?
Then you saw Jeremy Jordan!

28. Did you see Jessie Mueller's understudy in On A Clear Day?
Then you saw Alysha Umphress!

29. Did you see Malcolm Gets' understudy in Amour?
Then you saw Christian Borle!

30. Did you see Uta Hagen's alternate in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Then you saw Elaine Stritch!

And for every talented understudy on this list, there are hundreds of others who are someone in the world's absolute favorite actor.

Each time you see a show, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will never happen exactly the same way again. Seeing an understudy - someone who is likely thrilled to be getting a huge opportunity, someone who you're likely going to be hearing more from in the future - is an amazing part of that.

A gigantic BRAVO for all of the understudies."

For more information on Tepper, or to grab a copy of her (excellent) books for yourself, check out her official website here.

Photo by Matthew Murphy



Related Articles

From This Author Tyler Peterson

Tyler is one of BroadwayWorld's lead News Desk Editors, covering breaking Broadway and theatre news daily. He studied Public Relations and Creative Writing at Loyola (read more...)