Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.
This summer I'm living with one of my childhood best friends, whose older brother - let's call him G - was in Spring Awakening up until its closing this year. He was understudy and swing which means he played just about every single male part in the show at one point or another WHICH means he had to learn just about every single male part in the show and be prepared to perform them at one point or another. Honestly it kinda blows my mind. For all you actors, imagine the hold you've got to have on your ONE character in a show ... now imagine having that same kind of hold on like SIX different characters AND just turning them on/off and switching focus at will. Seems pretty daunting. Maybe that's just me (over-obsessing, mildly perfectionist, OCD ... etc.), but I don't know how I could manage to do it and I think swings/understudies are intensely under-appreciated on Broadway.
But I digress slightly.
Last August, Hunter Parrish (of 'Weeds' fame) was cast as Melchior on Broadway. Now, I have to admit, I never got to see the show so I never got the opportunity to compare Melchiors. But everyone I've heard from seems to agree that his performance fell, well, sort of flat - to be fair, he's been acting on TV for so long, it must have been a fair challenge to switch from that small-focus sort of performance to a level that can fill the Eugene O'Neill Theatre.
BUT THIS IS MY POINT. Why cast a TV actor in a leading role on Broadway, in a show that's pretty fahking big these days? (Comparatively speaking, whatever, you can disagree if you want but I think it's a pretty big theatre milestone, but that's another post.) Is it just the economy? Did they really need that celebrity boost? Because it's a pretty small boost too at that, if you ask me; 'Weeds' is not what it once was. But I can't really think of any other reason for them to cast someone whose stage presence did really just not cut it the way it should.
Let me be clear, I'm not here to judge the kid. You've either got it or you don't; you're either right for a part or you're not. And my disclaimer, because I've read some of the reviews and I know Parrish was pretty well-liked, is that the less favorable reviews have come from insiders who were actually working with him, and who weren't crazy about doing so. And in the midst of all this was G, who had played Melchior plenty of times, was obviously comfortable in the role, and, from what I've heard, was GOOD in it. Like, REALLY good.
But OK. So maybe a lot of this is just conjecture on my part. It's possible the producers weren't even considering putting G in the role - but maybe they were. I don't know these things for sure. And maybe Parrish really was a decent Melchior, for the audiences anyway. (His rabid fans on IMDB certainly seemed to love him, but frankly, I don't really trust them.) (One of them told a story about meeting him outside after the show, telling him she loved him, and promptly sobbing on his shoulder. I mean, COME ON.) Like I said, I never got to see it, so I don't know. But to me it just seems that if you've got two actors up for a part, possibly-to-roughly equally well-matched, and you've got a TV star (admittedly D-list) versus regular guy, straight outta MoCo, who's done the time ... well, obviously I'm not in the business nor am I a businessperson, but I'd give it to the up-and-comer before the 'Weeds' supporting actor. Besides, Parrish was offered the role of Link Larkin at the same time anyway, so really, everybody would have won.
I just feel sometimes like Broadway is too much of a Business. It's that catch-22, Broadway and its environs can be your fastest and sharpest ticket into the biz ... but is it really the biz I want to be a part of?
I'll get back to you.
p.s. I wonder if anyone will possibly get the very veiled pun in my title? You'd have to know my life really well.