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Men in musicals


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#1 Marius

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 07:47 PM

I was thinking recently, with all this talk of certain female roles needing alternates, is musical theatre a medium dominated my female lead roles? Are there THAT many challenging male roles? And why doesnt Jean Valjean (one of the few challenging male roles at present) not have an alternate when is much more challenging in my view than Maria, Elphaba and Eva? or does he and ive just missed that completely! haha

also what in your views are the strong male roles?  They normally seem to end up playing second fiddle to a female lead, even The Phantom isnt actually onstage THAT much, maybe demanding in costume, make up etc, but he isnt on stage THAT much when compared to Christine.

and finally, with Michael Ball, John Barrowman and adam garcia getting older who are the upcoming young male stars in your eyes? (eg who are the future Fiyeros, Marius's etc etc)?

#2 Tootsie

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 08:02 PM

With some past casts of Les Mis there has been a Valjean Alternate. I believe that John Owen Jones started off that way in fact (as an alternate).
Chris in Miss Saigon usually has an alternate. I think Joe Casey had one on Our House and the Phantom has one in certain casts.
The part of Arnaud was shared in the second London cast of Martin Guerre.
With regards to "second fiddle" I think it is a pretty even playing field. Lately a lot of new shows have had great female roles in, but that is only a recent development.  Across the board of the acting profession the men have a far better deal, and there are about 10 women to 1 man in this business. They are generally paid a lot better too, because if a woman asks for more money the producers can usually quite easily go to the next girl on the list - with the men, that is often not the case. Ho hum.

#3 Ian

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 08:03 PM

Strong roles in :-

Sweeney Todd
Man of La Mancha
Fiddler on the Roof
Company
JCS

Don't start me on the nonsense of "alternates"!

Up and Coming is rather harder but:-

Matt Rawle
Matt Cammelle
Richard Dempsey
Damian Humbley
Steve Miller
Ian McLarnon
Simon Lipkin
Jon Robyns
Hadley Fraser

remember that NO-ONE gives a perfect performance every time!!


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#4 M George

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 09:31 AM

QUOTE(Ian @ Mar 3 2007, 08:03 PM) View Post
Don't start me on the nonsense of "alternates"!


Why are alternates nonsense?  I'm interested to hear your viewpoint.
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#5 Matthew Winn

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 01:30 PM

QUOTE(M George @ Mar 4 2007, 09:31 AM) View Post
Why are alternates nonsense?  I'm interested to hear your viewpoint.

(Somebody else's viewpoint.) I have my doubts about the need for alternates.

When someone is writing for the stage they do so in the knowledge that the work they're creating needs to be performed. For this reason you don't have roles that span a six octave range, if a character needs to change costumes then a scene will be available to cover that, if someone has a particularly physical scene then they'll also have a chance to take it easy immediately before and after that scene, and so on. When a role is written the author keeps in mind the fact that the role must be performed by a mortal. Roles are written to be playable. Nobody hands over a script with the words "Ha! Let's see them play that!"

Besides, many of the roles that "need" an alternate have been played by one person eight times a week in the past.

So when a self-important actor shrinks from playing a role full time my instinct is to suspect that it's not the role that's at fault. It's especially odd that all too often the actor is able to play two shows to the full houses on Saturday but can't manage the half empty one on Monday evening. Funny, that. (Yes, I know that the producers prefer their star to be available on Saturdays, but it still strikes me as odd that a role that is supposedly so strenuous that it requires an alternate can nevertheless be performed twice by the same person in a space of eight hours.)
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#6 Ian

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 01:33 PM

QUOTE(M George @ Mar 4 2007, 09:31 AM) View Post
Why are alternates nonsense?  I'm interested to hear your viewpoint.


I just feel that for the vast majority of roles, a properly trained and experienced actor/ess should be able to cope with 8 shows a week. The use of alternates is a relatively modern phenomenon - really when sound design places far less of a strain on the voice than in past decades. Even Elaine "I don't do Mondays or Matinees" Paige managed all 8 shows of Evita first time around (at least to begin with).

I abhor the use of a star to "sell" a show to the public and then PLAN to substitute an alternate. Illness and holidays will always happen but for the likes of Elena Rogers in Evita, the planned schedule for Connie Fisher in SoM, and worse still Lesley Garrett (the Mother Superior must be one of the least taxing roles around) then the public is short-changed. I don't doubt that many of the alternates can be good - even better - than the named actor/ess, but the managements are almost always less-than-honest about schedules in advance.
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#7 Palatio

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 01:45 PM

Fair points but practically a star name is likelier to get bums on seats with the general theatre going public, rather than those of us who go very regularly and for whom it is more about the production than the actors. I have no problem whatsoever with selling a show on the strenght of a celeb IF they can deliver an excellent performance. Some can, as they have proved, others cannot. But either way, a lot is down to personal opinion as to whether someone has done a great job.

Although a fair number of "stars" can only give adequate performances (or worse: Caprice, Jane McDonald, Sacha Distel to name just 3..) I have seen many more non-star performances (from actors that have been fully trained etc) that have either left a lot to be desired or have been dreadful.

#8 M George

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 02:30 PM

QUOTE(Ian @ Mar 4 2007, 01:33 PM) View Post
I just feel that for the vast majority of roles, a properly trained and experienced actor/ess should be able to cope with 8 shows a week. The use of alternates is a relatively modern phenomenon - really when sound design places far less of a strain on the voice than in past decades. Even Elaine "I don't do Mondays or Matinees" Paige managed all 8 shows of Evita first time around (at least to begin with).


Yeah, ok.  I see your point.

Although I do still think some roles require an alternate.  Take Kim in Miss Saigon for instance.  The character is supposed to be 17 and requires a young actress (not necessarily 17 of course, but still young) to be able to play the role convincingly.  Is it reasonable to expect an inexperienced teenager or girl in her early 20's to perform a huge role like Kim eight times a week?

That may be a rubbish example, but the point is I think in some circumstances there is a place for alternates as long as they are of comparable quality as the pricipal person playing the role which is not always the case.

Now I can't really comment on Elaine Paige as I don't know the details but someone of her calibre and stature should be able to do 8 performances a week fairly easily even if the role is a challenging one.

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#9 Xander Hough

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 02:41 PM

Matthew I agree with celebrity (not up to it) casting, but not some of your points:

1.  Writing: yes very few writers will produce something that will be impossible to play but they do write things that stretch people to their limits and often pieces are tailored to those limits - sometimes specifically for someone cast in a workshop.  WICKED is a perfect example of this - it was tailored to the limits of Idina Menzel's belt.  

2.  What you are also forgetting is that limit-pushing are not just on paper they are also found in the direction.  It may not necessarily be that the music is difficult to sing or to have many words, but add in some dance numbers, a fight scene etc etc etc then it can become demanding.  You also have to factor in a fair amount of self inflicted limit pushing as well - for example playing Norma Desmond in a way that you think you should is probably exceptionally demanding because every performance you are making the journey of someone descending into madness.  To take the costume change example, directors don't say to an actor "Oh there isn't enough time for you to change costume, I'll throw in some extra crap so it's nice and leisurely for you" they just say "Change faster".  

3.  Even the best directors and writers probably cannot assess the full amount of pressure that a role brings and often "damage" or fatigue is built up cumulatively over a run.  It may be perfectly possible to perform the run of 8 shows a week for about 5 weeks but by that time, the actor is so exhausted they need a break for a further 10 weeks.  That just doesn't make good business sense.  Therefore to keep alead in the role it is better to have them do a reduced number of performances rather than run a guantlet of wondering when they are going to "conk out" (for want of a better word).

4.  Alternates also allow someone to build up a little bit of stamina and prove their worth which may lead to better roles in the future.  Many leading ladies such as Laura Michelle Kelly came to light because of someone else not performing the role full time (yes, she was an understudy which is slightly different kettle of fish - but my point is the same).

#10 angelfan

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 04:52 PM

I was writing to an online friend in New York and was telling him about How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria and the story of Connie and her, then, alternate.  He didn't really understand what I meant by an alternate and when I explained he said it wasn't really something done on Broadway (he works in theatre and is on the Tony judging panel).  So are alternates only an element of British theatre?
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