Actors/Actresses Who have No Choice

What on earth do I mean by “actors/actresses who have no choice”. It basically means there are some actors and actresses that have no choice, as in being your favorite in a role. There is a reason behind this. Let me explain.

For starters, what if those actors are the only ones you saw in the role. That means they have no choice but to be your favorite. Actors like Emily Bautista, Anthony Festa, Eymard Cabling, Lisa Karlin, Sam Lips, etc all have my only ones in a particular role. For some time, you might only have one cast you saw. So those actors/actresses have no choice but to be your favorites.

Then the second behind this belongs if you only remember one cast. I may have four casts in Wicked, but there is only one main cast that I remember. That is part of why Mary Kate Morrissey, Amanda Jane Copper, and Ashley Parker Angel are doing as my favorite Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero.

There are some reasons why your favorite actor in a role is not always your first. That is when you just don’t remember them. So someone in the future ends up being your first. Who are some of my firsts I remember? You probably can tell if I started with the film or the stage show.

  1. Hugh Jackman- Valjean
  2. Russell Crowe- Javert
  3. Anne Hathaway- Fantine
  4. Amanda Seyfried- Cosette/Sophie
  5. Eddie Redmayne- Marius
  6. Samantha Barks- Eponine
  7. Aaron Tveit- Enjolras
  8. Helena Bonham Carter- Madame Thenardier
  9. Sacha Baron Cohen- Monsieur Thenardier
  10. Isabelle Allen- Young Cosette
  11. Daniel Huttlestone- Gavroche
  12. Joey Barreiro- Jack Kelly
  13. Andy Richardson- Crutchie
  14. The other Newsies- remember their dance more than the acting
  15. Emily Bautista- Kim
  16. Anthony Festa- Chris
  17. Eymard Cabling- The Engineer
  18. Lisa Karlin- Leading Player
  19. Sam Lips- Pippin
  20. Ryan Deal- actually got to see him twice: he was my first Jesus in Godspell and my 2nd Jean Valjean

However, not all of my first were my favorite. That wasn’t true for my first Javert, Jean Valjean, Cosette, Marius, and Madame and Monsieur Thenardier. Weird that I only know that not all Les Mis firsts were my favorite in a role. As for firsts, I 100% know that Samantha Barks, Joey Barreiro, Emily Bautista, Eymard Cabling, Anthony Festa, Amanda Seyfried (as Sophie), Lisa Karlin, Sam Lips, Isabelle Allen, and Daniel Huttllestone were all my favorites. Some were my only actors in those role and the fact that some of them have the advantage of being my first.

Musical fans, do you understand this concept: “actors have no choice to be my favorite actors in a role”?

Things in Common between all Favorite Musicals

As all musical fanatics know, there are musicals we don’t like and at the same time there are musicals we love. While I tend to lean towards complex musicals, there are still simple musicals I love. While I tend to want spectacle or dance, not all musicals I love share that. So, what exactly is in common towards all of them?

Well, to make a musical, we need songs, plot, and character. It is extremely difficult to love the plot and characters if the songs are not good. That is one thing in common between all my favorite characters-as in amazing songs. That is usually my first step for a musical to become amazing.

Now that song is taken care of, it is time to look at the characters. That’s right, I look at the characters before the plot. After all, the characters create the plot in the first- no matter how small or big they are to the show. I have to love characters in the show. The characters are a huge reason why the songs become the songs we tend to love. We want the songs to complement the characters.

Finally- what about the plot? All three together create one. I have to love the plot. If the plot is boring, it will lead to boring songs and even not so amazing characters.

Now, what is especially important is the emotional connection to song, character, and plot. That emotional connection is where the WANT, DESIRE, and REASON comes from. It makes you want to listen the songs, go on the characters’ journey, which connects to the plot. All of the musicals I love I formed a strong emotion with: Wicked, Les Mis, Annie, Sound of Music, Phantom of the Opera, Rent, etc…….ALL have an emotional connection. Because of our emotional connection, it makes us love feeling the emotions in the first place. Positive emotions are the easiest to love feeling, but when it comes to negative emotions, that emotional connection is really important. After all, it truly matters what the characters’ lives and story are.

Yes, it will hurt at times in a musical. But, it isn’t our emotions we are feeling; instead it is the characters’. While we still feel the negative emotions, those have created some of the most beautiful songs in musical theatre. We end up loving listening to those sad/heartbreaking songs. “I’m Not Girl”, “Santa Fe”, “On My Own”, “I Dreamed a Dream”, “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”, “If I Can’t Love Her” are examples of songs I love despite the sadness that they have. I love dealing with these emotions due to the emotional connection I have with these characters.

So, what I am saying about all favorite musicals, they all share an emotional connection. That is exactly why I love each of them. The range of musicals is quite gigantic: “Music Man” to “Les Mis”. That really does show a lot.

Below are pictures from favorite musicals of mine: not all of them, but some.

Corner of the Sky

This is yet another musical that has reached a milestone this year. I have loved Pippin for five years now. When I refer to Pippin in this post, I mostly am referring to the 2013 revival- only in certain sections. Just like other musicals I love, I have not talked about it enough.

Songs:

Just like Godspell, Pippin is a Stephen Schwartz musical. The song, “Corner of the Sky” led me to wanting to see Pippin someday.

Let me talk about the songs in general now. I love its collection of songs. It has one of the best openings- no joke with “Magic to Do”, you was literally transported to a circus and you are given an idea of the kind are aerobatics you will be seeing for the rest of the musicals. I think that song is one of the best openings I have seen.

“Corner of the Sky” is literally one of the best “I Want” numbers I heard in musical theatre. It basically tells you what Pippin is about- it tells you that is about a young man trying to find out where he truly belongs.

You have a lot of energetic songs and of course the love songs. I literally love Pippin more than Godspell- for one thing, the song list is better- you have to remember, I am used to the 2013 revival.

Characters:

Pippin- it is hard to describe why I love Pippin. He is someone I believe anyone can relate to. Don’t a lot of people struggle with where they belong? He does not even realize he is headed on the wrong path—and makes several mistakes just like humans do.

Leading Player- I love the Leading Player more as a woman. She is crafty, manipulative, playful, and evil. She is more playful around Pippin to make sure he keeps on heading on the right path (but the “right path” in reality is the wrong path). She is a very intriguing antagonist, and that is something that I love about her even though I really do not like her.

Plot:

Like I said, it can be easily relatable. We all want to head in the right direction and not want someone like the Leading Player get in our way. Pippin does make several mistakes, but that is we tend to do helping make him a real character.

Dance/Spectacle:

I love the spectacle of Pippin. It really does feel like you are watching a circus. There are aerobats. In some ways, you don’t see triple threats- the actors have to know four things this time around. You see a trapeze. Even though the plot doesn’t center around a circus, it feels like you are watching both a circus and a musical at the same time almost. This show won Best Musical Revival and I can easily see why.

Favorite Songs: Corner of the Sky

Let’s Talk about Standbys and Understudies

When we think of the principals in musicals, we tend to think of the main ones that played them. They are the ones that tend to get the MOST respect. They get appreciated more than anybody. They are the ones we are HOPING to get. However, what happens when one of them can’t come to the theatre? Who takes their place? This is when an understudy or standby comes in? LISTEN- the standby and understudy DESERVES the same amount of RESPECT and APPRECIATION that the main principal has. They have to go on- at any time. Sometimes, the understudy or standby is called on in the middle of the show or only have five minutes to get ready. Look- these guys have to memorize more than anybody- their regular ensemble role plus the roles they understudy. Sometimes they are assigned to understudy more than one role.

My Understudies:

Grace Morgan (Christine)

  • When I saw Phantom of the Opera at the Peace Center in 2014, I had an understudy as Christine. I got choked up watching this production. I do remember feeling an emotional connection and love for Christine. The regular Christine was on vocal rest, and that was why Grace Morgan had to play the part. She is where most of my love for Christine comes from.

Lisa Karlin (Leading Player)

  • When I saw Pippin in 2015, Lisa Karlin was on as the Leading Player. She was the true standout of the night. She was crafty, manipulative, playful around Pippin (to make it seem to him that he could trust him), and had this level of evilness and darkness that made her performance quite intriguing. In “Magic to Do”, she only had a small hint of evil, but when it got to “Glory”, there was a lot more evil and darkness.

Sam Lips (Pippin)

  • I cannot believe I don’t remember his Pippin much. I honestly wish I did.

Adam Bayjou (Jean Valjean)

  • When I found out I had an understudy- I was like, “I am in the West End, and I have an understudy for the main character”. Well, with Adam’s portrayal, I forgot I was watching an understudy. I never once detected that- that is real talent in that.

Mary Kate Morrissey (Elphaba)

  • She was an excellent Elphaba. What made her Elphaba more special was the fact that she was paired with an brilliant Glinda and at the same time paired with an incredible Fiyero. I care more about what Glinda and Elphaba actresses are. She embodied everything I already knew about that character- while still bringing something new. She made me appreciate a song I always hated: “No Good Deed” finally had emotions in it. She is my favorite Elphaba.

Kaitlyn Frank (Katherine Plumber)

  • This is another understudy I don’t remember much about. Despite that, when I went back to my Newsies review, it did say she had incredible chemistry with Joey Barreiro, my Jack Kelly.

Talia Simone Robinson (Eponine)

  • Even in the US Tour of Les Mis, I had an understudy. She wasn’t the strongest of actors in the love triangle: it was Marius (Joshua Grosso). However- I loved seeing her Eponine because she did have some strong moments. She was a bit playful around Marius at times. She did show the heartbreak- it defiantly showed. In “A Heart Full of Love”- I felt for all three characters. Whenever I think of Talia’s Eponine- it is not “On My Own” I think of: instead it is “A Little Fall of Rain”, which to me is a bit surprising. Usually when I think of Eponine- “On My Own” comes to mind. In “A Little Fall of Rain”- I did believe in it- each time Talia tried to move, I noticed it was a struggle for Talia’s Eponine, which got harder as the song continued- which made me believe in the scene. The US Tour was my cast after the West End- I came in with an open mind and was not going not to compare the two casts, which would have been a bad idea especially in the case of Eponine because I had an understudy.

Rafiki (I know the name, but can’t spell it)

  • Rafiki was a very recent understudy- since I saw Lion King a year ago. She opens up the show- so getting a strong Rafiki is crucial. I loved her as well.

Eymard Cabling (The Engineer)

  • He was my first Engineer, so my knowledge of this character all comes from him.

Conclusion:

  • How did I learn to have so much respect and appreciation for the standbys and understudies? For starters, it comes from having them so many times over the years. I learned just how talented they are. Some of them were my first actor/actress in these roles- for Katherine, The Engineer, Pippin, and The Leading Player. On the other hand, the Eponine, Jean Valjean, and Elphaba actors/actresses were NOT my first for those roles. One of the biggest reasons why I learned to respect them so much comes from the fact that I am a theater minor.

All the Theaters I have Been to

It is known I have mostly seen musicals through Blumenthal Performing Art. What about all the theaters I have seen musicals? I decided to write a post that make a mention of ALL the theaters I have been to. However there is only ONE theater I don’t even know the name of.

St. Louis

  • Fox Theater- I have seen Annie and Fiddler and the Roof here. It is such a gorgeous theater. As you can see below, you can tell just how beautiful the theater is. I saw Annie in the orchestra and Fiddler up in the balcony- so I was able to fully appreciate the beauty of the Fox.

Greenville, South Carolina

  • Peace Center- I saw Phantom of the Opera and Les Mis at this beautiful theater. It has incredible acoustics- I was able to truly notice this when I saw Les Mis. Like Fox, I started in the orchestra with Phantom of the Opera, and my recent show, being Les Mis, I ended up in the balcony. It is incredible for that to happen. Both times I saw these shows were special- Phantom of the Opera was a date with mom and Les Mis was with my university. The reason why I was able to really notice how incredible the acoustics were in Les Mis belonged to the fact that I was sitting in the balcony (the 4th level)- to the way I heard a gunshot, to literally hearing just one tear (I literally was able to pick up on that), to the way just one word was said, or in more quieter moments still able to pick up on the words. Despite being in balcony- was able to hear everything.

Charlotte, NC- this is going to take a while

Blumenthal Performing Arts

Belk Theater- this is Blumenthal’s main theater. It has four levels- orchestra, grand tier, mezzanine, and balcony. I only remember sitting in orchestra and mezzanine. Not only does Belk do tours, it also does Charlotte Ballet events, and Charlotte Symphony Events. I saw Lion King, Miss Saigon, Newsies, Rent, Mamma Mia, Sound of Music, La Cage, Porgy and Bess, and Pippin at Belk Theater- most of these musicals are ones that I LOVE. It might seem like Belk Theater is the biggest theater of Blumenthal Performing Arts, but it actually isn’t.

Ovens Auditorium- What was surprising to me is that Ovens is actually the biggest Blumenthal Performing Arts theater. Ovens does have less levels than Belk. It has only two levels, but three sections- Mezzanine and Balcony share the second level. What makes Ovens a bigger theatre? Ovens is wider and deeper compared to Belk making it able to fit more people. I have seen only three musicals here- even though it feels like I have gone to Ovens more often than that. I think that is because one of those musicals is a repeat.

I have seen Addams Family, A Christmas Story, and Wicked here. I did not see shows at Ovens three times- it actually would add up to five times: Wicked was seen three times. The BEST area to see a musical at Ovens is in the Mezzanine. I have seen Wicked as a date with my dad and with my university- those are the other two times after my first time seeing Wicked at Ovens. Blumenthal’s upcoming season has more shows at Ovens then there typically is.

Central Piedmont Community College

Pease Auditorium- this theatre no longer exists at Charlotte’s community college, but when I was a student there, it did. My first musical I saw when I started college was Godspell. It is actually one of the smallest theaters I have seen a musical in. I still remember some of the costumes. Loved the show- three of those actors would show up in later productions I would see at CPCC.

Halton Theater- this may be a community college theater, but it actually has an orchestra and a balcony. I have seen Les Mis, Oklahoma, Grease, and Newsies at this theater. This shows all felt professional- you never once though you were at a community college’s theater. They combined students with the community and with professionals. I have seen Les Mis three times at this theater-once with family and twice as an usher: this was my first time seeing the stage show, and as a matter of fact was truly the motor for wanting to see the musical in London. CPCC has a very strong theater program- you go in, and you believe you are just going to see a community college type of production, and you come out thinking you just watched a professional production: that is what all four shows felt like.

Children’s Theatre
  • When I was an usher for Children’s Theatre, I did get to see one of their musicals. It was in December 2014, and I was ushering for Scrooge, which is A Christmas Carol’s musical. I remember seeing it, but don’t exactly remember any of the songs. There is something I do remember- I remember how talented the Tiny Tim was- there was a particular song that belonged to him, and I loved his voice in that song, and I was moved by it.

Boiling Springs, NC

  • Dover Theater- Boiling Springs is literally in the middle of nowhere. Dover Theater is where I saw musicals in Gardner Webb. The two musicals I saw were Little Shop of Horrors and Music Man. Music Man was actually the first show I saw at Gardner Webb, which was one of the best starts- especially when you transferred in Spring Semester. Music Man began the BEST year of musicals. I actually was kind of nervous when it comes to GWU musicals- these were musicals after CPCC- by that point, I only saw Les Mis and Godspell. I loved Music Man’s production, and the show itself. GWU has a smaller theatre program, but still can put on well-done productions.

Abingdon, VA

Barter Theater- Okay, this is one of the theaters I don’t remember going to. I did see Oliver here, but I have no memory of seeing it. I only know about it because I was told.

Jacksonville, FL

  • Jacksonville Theater- I don’t even know the name of the theater I went to in Jacksonville. Just like Barter, I don’t even remember going. I think my parents said I went to Cats and Seussical here in elementary school.

New York City

  • Gershwin Theater- this was my first theater I ever saw Wicked in. Little did I know when I stepped foot in that theater that I would be changed “for good”. It was August 2006, and I was alone with my mom- that was a HUGE reason why it was special- just me and my mom. That is part of why Wicked is meaningful. It is not all of why Wicked is meaningful. I was only 12 at the time. The song, “Popular”, was my favorite song at the time. It has been 13 years since I have been to NYC- I think it is time to go back, but next time, I want to see more than one musical.
Gershwin Theater-Wicked

London-West End

  • Queens Theater- I will always view this theater as The Queens Theater. It was what I knew it as when I saw Les Mis. Just like seeing Wicked on Broadway with my mom, I was seeing Les Mis in the West End with my mom. I feel like things came full circle when I saw Les Mis in London. Not only was I with my mom, but I was dreaming a dream. I sat in the 9th row from the stage. Plus, Les Mis is not just a musical- it made me passionate about musicals. When I saw Queen’s Theater, I literally thought I was imagining- it still felt that way when I bought souvenirs to when I saw that I had an understudy as Valjean to entering the auditorium to seeing the set to sitting down to noticing how close I was. Nothing felt real- that was how surreal it felt. Then it happened- I heard it- that one note (or notes) from the orchestra- I knew this was no dream happening- it was a dream actually happening. The notes did tell me something= that it was going to be more than expected- how can just a few notes make you know that? Those notes were not lying- it was more than expected. It was 110% worth it. At the end, I went to stage door, and my playbill was signed by the actor (Adam Bayjou) who played Jean Valjean. No words to describe the ENTIRE experience. This happened July 30th, 2015.

Conclusion

  • I sure have been to a number of theaters. I purposely ended on the theaters I saw on Broadway and the West End. As you can see, I mostly see musicals in Charlotte, my hometown. There have been times where I do see a musical somewhere else besides Charlotte, but that is not common. I feel like I want to eventually go see a musical at St. Louis’ MUNY- which is an outdoor theater, and I want to go back to NYC. If I go back to NYC- I want to see more than one musical. I don’t have vivid memories of Broadway- I want stronger memories. It is time for me to go back to the city. I might live in the states, but NYC is not easy to get to- so I am glad that Charlotte has Blumenthal Performing Arts.