Monday, August 4, 2014

'At This Performance...' Clips from 4 Great Broadway Understudies

One of the first Broadway shows I ever saw was the 2010 revival of Promises, Promises, starring Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes. I didn't realize that KCheno was still part of the cast the night my tour group (made up of mostly theatre nerds my parents' age and older) and I went, but it didn't matter, because I ended up seeing her understudy, Sarah Jane Everman.

Naturally, there was a general hum of discontent over not being able to see a Tony Award-winner, but you know what? SJ was brilliant! Was she KCheno? No, but she was adorable and had a ridiculously amazing voice. Despite that, some of the people in my group actually left at intermission (side note: why you'd leave a $200 show at intermission when you have no chance to exchange your ticket is beyond me) because they couldn't stand not getting to see the "real star."

Whatever. Broadway has some awesome understudies, and I've gotten the chance to see a couple of them (and not just on YouTube!). I think that the Broadway community is very supportive of understudies in general, because they know how hard they work, often without getting to perform the role they understudy. So here are four of my favorite understudy videos below. Normally I'd consider 4 to be a wimpy, noncommittal number for a blog post, but since today is the 4th (and I don't have a 5th understudy), I'm making an exception.

1.  Bryan Fenkart, Memphis
I saw Memphis the same week as Promises, Promises, and I ended up seeing Bryan Fenkart go on for Huey instead of Chad Kimball. The main thing about that performance was that I had the best seat ever, but also I really loved Fenkart opposite Montego Glover! So much so, that when I heard he would be leading the national tour, you best believe I went to see it in my city, and I totally did the stage door thing, like the adoring fan I unashamedly am. #FangirlingIsCool... Anyway, check out this Bryant Park clip of him singing "The Music of My Soul."

2. Sarah Jane Everman, Promises, Promises
I pretty much already explained all about SJ, but see what I mean?! Here's a great performance of hers from Broadway in Bryant Park, singing "Say a Little Prayer."

3. Alex Ellis, Catch Me if You Can
Because of her YouTube series, "Diary of a Chorus Girl," I'd venture to say that Alex Ellis is one of the more famous understudies on Broadway. She made her Broadway debut in 2011 in Catch Me if You Can understudying the role of Brenda (played by Kerry Butler), which she did get to perform at least once that I know of (a friend of mine was at that performance, and he said that at the curtain call, co-star Norbert Leo Butz told Alex Ellis something sweet like, "I'm so proud of you."). So check out this video of her singing the iconic 11 o'clock number, "Fly, Fly Away."

4. Jessica Phillips, Next to Normal
I've been told Jessica Phillips had a bit of a fan base while she was understudying the role of Diana in Next to Normal, possibly because she definitely seems different from Alice Ripley, who won a Tony for the role. Below is a great audio montage of clips from just about all of her songs that shows off her theatrical range very well. And this is definitely a YouTube gem!

What understudies have you seen that you loved and/or fangirled over?

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook:

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