This section relies largely or entirely on a single source .(October 2013)
In theater, an understudy, referred to in opera as cover or covering, is a performer who learns the lines and blocking or choreography of a regular actor, actress, or other performer in a play. Should the regular actor or actress be unable to appear on stage because of illness, injury, emergencies or death, the understudy takes over the part. Usually when the understudy takes over, the theater manager announces the cast change prior to the start of the performance. Coined in 1874,the term understudy has more recently generally been applied only to performers who can back up a role, but still regularly perform in another role.
Performers who are only committed to covering a part and do not regularly appear in the show are often referred to as standbys and alternates. Standbys are normally required to sign in and remain at the theater the same as other cast members, although sometimes they may call in, until they are released by the production stage manager. If there is no doubt about the health of the actor being covered, or there are no hazardous stunts to perform, a standby may be released at the first intermission, if not before. At times, standbys are required to stay within a certain area around the theater (10 blocks in New York City is a common standard). Today, the standbys must also have a cell phone so that at any time they can be called to the theater.
Alternates, like standbys, do not have a regular character in the production, but they are scheduled to go on for a physically and vocally challenging role for a certain number of performances a week. Examples of this are the title role in Evita , Christine in The Phantom of the Opera , Peter Parker/Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark , and Evan Hansen in Dear Evan Hansen .
In musical theater, the term swing is often used for a member of the company who understudies several chorus and/or dancing roles.If an understudy fills in for a lead role, a swing acts the parts normally performed by the understudy. A super swing or universal swing is a swing who commutes around the country as needed to act in various productions of a widespread show.
In contrast, a prompt cues an actor while not personally being on the stage or in the spotlight.
In some instances, multiple understudies are assigned to cover the same role and ranked by priority. If the principal actor is unable to perform, the role devolves to the highest-priority understudy who is available.
Several actors made their name in show business by being the understudy of a leading actor and taking the role over for several performances, including: Anthony Hopkins for Laurence Olivier, when Olivier became ill with cancer during the run of the National Theater's The Dance of Death , 1967; Ted Neeley for Jeff Fenholt during the 1971 Broadway run of Jesus Christ Superstar when Neeley was asked to star in the 1973 film version and subsequent tours; and Edward Bennett for David Tennant as Hamlet in the RSC's 2008 production. Kerry Ellis was called to perform as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady when Martine McCutcheon took ill. In the audience that day was Brian May, who was then writing his musical We Will Rock You , and he was so impressed with Ellis's performance he immediately wanted to cast her as Meat, a lead in the show.
In 1974, baritone Thomas Allen fell ill during a performance at The Proms of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana . His understudy was unable to take over –he was a medical doctor, and was attending to Allen. Patrick McCarthy, then unknown, stepped out of the audience, went backstage, and offered his services as a professional singer who knew the part. He received a standing ovation.
In 2002, Sam Moran had filled in for Greg Page in the ever popular children's entertainment singing group The Wiggles more than 150 times before stepping up as part of the official lineup from November 2006-January 2012. The original yellow wiggle was suffering from a chronic illness called orthostatic intolerance during this particular time.
When Carol Haney broke her ankle while playing the role of Gladys in The Pajama Game , Shirley MacLaine assumed the role.
Arthur Jefferson aka Stan Laurel was an understudy of Charlie Chaplin working for Fred Karno, a music hall impresario, before they entered American film.
Roberto Alagna opened the 2006/07 season at La Scala on 7 December 2006 in the new production of Aida by Franco Zeffirelli. During the second performance on 10 December, Alagna, whose opening performance was considered ill-at-ease, was booed and whistled from the loggione (the least expensive seats at the very back of La Scala), and he walked off the stage.The role of Radames was taken over successfully for the rest of the performance by his understudy Antonello Palombi, who entered on stage wearing jeans and a black shirt.
In 2011, during the 25th Anniversary performance of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical The Phantom of the Opera , the titular character and Christine are played by understudies Simon Shorten and Katie Hall when they walk on a lowering walkway during the title song while principal actors Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess are positioned on a gondola prop backstage singing the entire song and awaiting their cue for the gondola to move onstage. In the film release of the performance, a footage of the principal actors (in full costume) singing the song on the walkway was filmed on one rehearsal and added in the final cut.
Aida is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni. Set in the Old Kingdom of Egypt, it was commissioned by Cairo's Khedivial Opera House and had its première there on 24 December 1871, in a performance conducted by Giovanni Bottesini. Today the work holds a central place in the operatic canon, receiving performances every year around the world; at New York's Metropolitan Opera alone, Aida has been sung more than 1,100 times since 1886. Ghislanzoni's scheme follows a scenario often attributed to the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, but Verdi biographer Mary Jane Phillips-Matz argues that the source is actually Temistocle Solera.
La Scala is an opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated on 3 August 1778 and was originally known as the Nuovo Regio Ducale Teatro alla Scala. The premiere performance was Antonio Salieri's Europa riconosciuta.
Roberto Alagna is a French operatic tenor. He obtained French citizenship in 1981, while also retaining his previous Italian citizenship.
Angela Gheorghiu is a Romanian soprano, especially known for her performances in the operas of Puccini and Verdi, widely recognised by critics and opera lovers as one of the greatest sopranos of all time.
Tito Gobbi was an Italian operatic baritone with an international reputation.
Carlton Earl "Carl" Anderson was an American singer, film and theater actor best known for his portrayal of Judas Iscariot in the Broadway and film versions of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Anderson and singer-actress Gloria Loring performed the duet "Friends and Lovers", which reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1986.
Teddie Joe Neeley is an American singer, actor, musician, composer, and record producer. He is known for portraying the title role in Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), a role for which he was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards and has reprised numerous times.
Nell Rankin was an American operatic mezzo-soprano. Though a successful opera singer internationally, she spent most of her career at the Metropolitan Opera, where she worked from 1951 to 1976. She was particularly admired for her portrayals of Amneris in Verdi's Aida and the title role in Bizet's Carmen. Opera News said, "Her full, generous tone and bold phrasing, especially in the Italian repertory, were unique among American mezzos of her generation.
Sir Thomas Boaz Allen is an English operatic baritone. He is widely admired in the opera world for his voice, the versatility of his repertoire, and his acting—leading many to regard him as one of the best lyric baritones of the late 20th century. In October 2011, he was appointed Chancellor of Durham University, succeeding Bill Bryson.
Lisa Simone Kelly is an American singer, composer and actress, known for her work on and off Broadway, in Rent, Lion King, Aida, and Les Miserables. She is the only child of the late musician and civil rights activist Nina Simone and is the executive producer of the Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? Simone's albums include Simone on Simone, All is Well, My World, and Live at the Edge.
Aprile Millo is an American operatic soprano of Italian and Irish ancestry who is particularly admired for her interpretations of the works of Giuseppe Verdi. Possessing a spinto voice of power, warmth and temperament, Millo became one of the most celebrated opera singers of the late twentieth century. Although she has performed at many of the world's leading opera houses and with many orchestras and ensembles internationally, Millo has spent much of her career appearing in productions at the Metropolitan Opera.
Antonello Palombi is an Italian operatic tenor.
Lisa Brescia is an American musical theatre actress who has performed as lead and understudy in several Broadway shows. Raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she went on to pursue acting and graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Maria Agasovna Guleghina is a Soviet-born operatic soprano singer, particularly associated with the Italian repertory.
Romilda Pantaleoni was an Italian soprano who had a prolific opera career in Italy during the 1870s and 1880s. She sang a wide repertoire that encompassed bel canto roles, Italian and French grand opera, verismo operas, and the German operas of Richard Wagner. She became particularly associated with the roles of Margherita in Boito's Mefistofele and the title role in Ponchielli's La Gioconda; two roles which she performed in opera houses throughout Italy. She is best remembered today for originating the roles of Desdemona in Giuseppe Verdi's Otello (1887) and Tigrana in Giacomo Puccini's Edgar (1889). Universally admired for her acting skills as well as her singing abilities, Pantaleoni was compared by several critics to the great Italian stage actress Eleonora Duse.
Bradley Dean is an American stage and screen actor.
An audition is a sample performance by an actor, singer, musician, dancer or other performer. It typically involves the performer displaying their talent through a previously memorized and rehearsed solo piece or by performing a work or piece given to the performer at the audition or shortly before. In some cases, such as with a model or acrobat, the individual may be asked to demonstrate a range of professional skills. Actors may be asked to present a monologue. Singers will perform a song in a popular music context or an aria in a Classical context. A dancer will present a routine in a specific style, such as ballet, tap dance or hip-hop, or show his or her ability to quickly learn a choreographed danceion is a systematic process in which industry professionals select performers, which is in some ways analogous to a job interview in the regular job market. In an audition, the employer is testing the ability of the applicant to meet the needs of the job and assess how well the individual will take directions and deal with changes. After some auditions, after the performer has demonstrated their abilities in a given performance style, the audition panel may ask a few questions that resemble those used in standard job interviews.
Nina Rautio is a Russian operatic soprano. Her son Jan Karl Rautio (1980) – pianist, conductor, composer.
Gegham Grigorian was an Armenian operatic tenor.
Michael James Scott is an American actor and singer, known for his work on the Broadway stage. He is most well known for playing the lead role of the Genie in Disney's musical production of Aladdin in the Original Australian Cast, as well as in the West End, U.S. National Tour and Broadway productions.