Replacement Casts and Revivals
Reba McEntire in Annie Get Your Gun, Melanie Griffith in Chicago, Estelle Parsons in August Osage County – these are all leading ladies who have replaced original cast members in principal roles of long-running Broadway shows.
Sometimes replacement cast members improve a show, other times they work out okay, but in rare circumstances they can close a show prematurely. Replacement cast members in most cities of the world usually only exist in revivals of shows some time after the original run. But in the big smoke of New York and London, where shows can run for 10 years or more, replacement casts are a common necessity.
The current Chicago on Broadway (itself, a revival of the original) introduced the marketing concept of replacing leading actors with well-known celebrities in order to keep the show from going stale, in the process increasing ticket sales. Some of these experiments paid off, others didn’t. While Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in the Broadway stage version of The Producers simply proved too difficult to replace successfully.
The New York Times has an interesting article about replacement casting on Broadway and reports the American Theatre Wing recently considered awarding outstanding actors who do not open in the original production with a Tony Award, but later scrapped the idea.
I wonder if any readers of The Drama Teacher have a story they’d like to share about their experiences seeing replacement cast members in plays or musicals? Do people think actors should be awarded a Tony if they didn’t star in the original run of a show?