Monday, July 28, 2008
But Then Again: The Fine Line Between Stunt Casting and Star Casting
We all wince at the notion of stunt-casting—getting a name from television, film, or popular music to appear in a show on Broadway or on tour to get butts in seats, usually to the detriment of the show and to the livelihoods of struggling actors who have devoted their lives to the stage.
Prime examples include, but are not limited to, David Hasselhoff, Jack Wagner, and Sebastian Bach (all from Jekyll and Hyde); Mickey Dolenz, Michelle Williams, Deborah Cox, Toni Braxton, and Taylor Dayne (all from Aida); or CeCe Winans, Chaka Khan, and LaKisha Jones (all from The Color Purple). In some cases, they may not be able to dance like the part requires, sometimes they aren’t the right age at all, and for others, they simply can’t do it on stage.
Tourist audiences walk out thinking, “Wow, I can’t believe I saw ________ live, and wasn’t he/she amazing!” The 1/3 of the audience who is visiting the show after having seen Rob Evan, Chuck Wagner, Heather Headley, Sherie Rene Scott, or Felicia P. Fields in those roles is thinking, “Wow, I can’t believe _________ was so ill-suited for that part.”
But as die-hard as most of us are, and as much as we love our theatre actors, we also need to acknowledge that there are people out there whose careers didn’t originate in theatre but who are still incredibly talented on stage. Everyone has their own path to Broadway, and just because someone, say, chose to wait in long lines for American Idol instead of outside an audition space, doesn’t mean their talent should be discounted.
I was excited to see Diana DeGarmo listed in the Broadway cast of Godspell. Don’t get me wrong, because I would have been more thrilled to see Eden Espinoza, Julia Murney, Felicia Finley, or Coleen Sexton in that part. However, this is a sign that DeGarmo is making a run for a career on Broadway. She’s not just doing a summer tour or three months as a replacement, she’s dedicating herself to a show for an entire year. And she’s got real talent. Not only did I hear great things about her time as Penny in Hairspray, but when I saw her in Brooklyn, she could really knock those songs out of the park. Her voice has grown greatly since her days on Idol (when she was just a teenager), and she’s the real thing.
Honestly, we often hear of people online raving about some replacements, in relation to their being very physically fit men (i.e. Joey Lawrence, Mario Lopez, et al). But there are times when talent wins out, when the road they took to the stage may have been from celebrity, but their acclaim is all talent. After all, for every Lance Bass, there is a Fantasia, Reba McEntire, Marilu Henner, Larry Gatlin, Keith Carradine, or Tom Wopat.
In some cases, they may not be able to dance like the part requires, sometimes they aren’t the right age at all, and for others, they simply can’t do it on stage. But other times, they’re spot on.
Congratulations, Diane DeGarmo. I’ve no doubt you’ve earned it.
the Broadway Mouth
June 28, 2008