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Thursday, August 19, 2010


When it comes to the musical theatre casting game, I admit I'm super critical. For what reason other than I guess I fear the genre becoming over commercialized and losing (to me) what makes musical theatre so special. I guess I forget that there was a time when show music was mainstream made famous by the likes of the members of the Rat Pack. Then I wonder what purpose does it make for me to be that critical about casting choices? Am I that inflexible that I can't accept a new artistic spin on a performance? While some performers might not be ideal, is there anything really wrong with a new perspective? Isn't that new perspective part of what makes this an art form open up to interpretation and such? Back in the day, I was a critic for a Broadway website and I had it in for everyone. Instead of me liking a show until the performance gave me reason not to like it, I thought that a cast had to prove their worthiness to me. Why? How awful. Maybe I'm maturing and being more open minded. Maybe I'm realizing there's really no point in being that critical. Who am I helping by thinking that way? I can still believe there is a standard for a performance to live up to, I just don't have to be such a super biotch about it, right?

When I look at shows I've recently seen like In the Heights (when it was on tour here in LA) I remember being so ecstatic. Sure, I was thrilled to see Lin-Manuel Miranda reprising his role of Usnavi for the first time since he left the role in New York and he was tremendous. Yet independent of this brilliance, this touring cast was top notch. My fear was that they wouldn't be; my fear was that Lin-Manuel Miranda would be carrying the show and come on, what kind of faith is that in my favorite musical art form? So for me to feel so impressed and accepting was a big deal (because typically I think touring casts have a lot to prove). This cast proved to me how wrong I could be.

Last night, I saw the Live from Lincoln Center production of South Pacific and it too was just amazing. Sure, most of the original revival cast was intact. Noticeably missing was Matthew Morrison (Lt. Joe Cable) who was stuck in L.A. for some TV show commitment (haha) and couldn't return to his role. Andrew Samonsky is currently playing the Cable role on Broadway and was in this Lincoln Center production and he was amazing. To me, he had the chops for the role and even maybe more-so the look (in my mind as a "Lieutenant") than does Morrison. The difference is that I gave him a chance. He didn't have to be Morrison and not being so was ok. When I saw Aaron Lazar as Fabrizio in The Light in the Piazza on-tour, I actually think I might have loved him more than Morrison. For some reason though, the touring cast of South Pacific just didn't do it for me. I really wanted to like it and even when I got irked by certain aspects of the casting and performances, I still really tried to like it. There was something that wasn't so cohesive about the cast as a whole when they sat down here in L.A. in the performance I caught.

Nonetheless, these are examples of how replacement roles (and ones on tour) are important and how they really aren't so bad. Replacement casting is something I'm going to be considerate of and I'm going to stop being such a hard-edged-critical theatre snob (unless given a legit reason to be). I of course can still be a theatre snob, I can just stop being so...uber-critical about aspects of it. Right? Give the actors a chance, says I. They deserve it. Indeed.


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