The Standbys

This one is for theatre lovers everywhere! In fact, the screening audience members even learned the difference between an understudy and a standby. An understudy is a cast member already working in the show who can step in if a particular actor is incapacitated; a standby is paid to be on-site, ready to take over a principal role if needed. BTW a "swing" can take over any number of roles to backfill behind the understudy and is ready for anything. One of the actors said, "I can't get my head around that one!"

In this fascinating documentary, we follow three individuals:
  • Merwin Foard ("Les Miserables" and "The Addams Family") married his co-star when he was Curly and she was Laurie in a production of "Oklahoma" over 20 years ago. He has chosen a career over stardom because he is happy raising a family.
  • AlĂ©na Watters ("West Side Story") can burp on command, has an amazing vocal range and developed her own one-woman show. She is in the original cast of "Sister Act," currently on Broadway.
  • Ben Crawford ("Beauty and the Beast") finished out the run of "Shrek" in the title role for the Broadway show, then was forced to audition for the tour.
These under-appreciated, highly talented musicians are loved and loathed by their peers. They are revered for their talent, but NO one wants to see them go on stage because it would mean something has happened to the star, and most stars would DIE before they would allow that!

Current Broadway stars are interviewed about this demanding job and they have nothing but respect and admiration for them. Featured are: Cheyenne Jackson, Sutton Foster, Zachary Quinto, David Hyde Pierce, plus various agents, managers, casting directors and Broadway experts.

It is clear that this is a heartbreaking business and no one knows that better than "The Standbys." I loved every minute of this 2012 Seattle International Film Festival documentary from the USA.