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1/21/13

Hey, Understudies are Performers Too!

You know that white slip that slid out of your Playbill a.k.a the "white slip of death?" Well, time to change your attitude...

I know I joke, but I really do not mind to see an understudy go on for a show. It is very rare that I see a production solely for one of the actors performing and in most cases, the understudy is as prepped and ready-to-go as much as the principles. In fact, I am sure most of us can recall an understudy performance or several that were absolutely, mind-blowingly, awesomesauce that we don't miss the original performer too much, if at all.

I guess that is what made "Not At This Performance," last night's 54 Below concert produced by Shoshana Feinstein, such a treat - all the understudies we never heard of, or the ones we are familiar with, but never went on for one of the roles they covered, got to sing their respective songs anyways. I knew it was going to be a fun time, but even I underestimated how great it was going to be. Let's recap some of the highlights while endlessly refreshing YouTube to deliver the goods.

-- After belting out Catch Me If You Can's "Live in Living Color,"Jay Armstrong Johnson, who was the understudy for Aaron Tveit in the lead role, went on to share with the audience about the first time he met Kerry Butler and, nervously, told her he can't wait to make out with her. I mean, that happens to everyone, right? No matter...Jay proceeded to bring the house down with "Goodbye," Catch Me's  11:00 number (and my personal favorite from that show), before dashing out of the club to rest up for his first day of Hands on a Hardbody rehearsal. That's the price you pay for looking divine in a suit with a golden voice...you have to flee  the rest of the cabaret festivities to rest up for "putting your hands on a car" rehearsal.

-- Alysha Umphress, queen of the jazz voice, was on-hand and "Alysha'd" all of us, in typical form. Grace and beauty...she has it. Commitment as well, evidently...during one of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever's shows workshops, she had to drive to Poughkeepsie the morning of a show to take place later that night. And that ain't quite up the block, you know...

-- Glory Days, that musical by Nick Blaemire that was open for 5 minutes, had a representative in the form of Alex Brightman. He had a jovial sense of humor when talking about the lead-up to "the news"...you know, that happy-go-lucky conversation where the producers say their show will be closing. Apparently, Alex didn't make it to the producers before finding out himself - a few teenage girls in the lobby of the theater informed him with an "I'm Sorry" as the closing announcement had already started circulating Playbill.com and such.

-- Also, I chatted up Alex briefly before leaving and I must say - one of the nicest, most social guys ever. I practically poured my love of all things 35MM and he asked me if I had tickets for RSO (Ryan Scott Oliver) at Joe's Pub tonight. I almost jumped out of my chair with a, "Bitch, I bought those tickets months ago, duhhh." The fact that I am seeing Alex (and Jay!) sing again so soon, by accident kind-of, is just straight-up bitchin'.

-- Corey Mach, God love him (pun not intended), is frikken hilarious. He dropped one of the most suggestive lines of the night ("We shared Nick Blaemire!") and poked fun at his fellow Godspell swing, Eric Michael Krop, by recalling an instance when the walk on water plexi-glass portion of the stage snapped as Eric was walking over it. He also channeled his inner-Telly Leung by singing "All Good Gifts." Because don't we all just want to be a fierce Asian when we grow up?!

-- Ironically, Krop ended up getting the last laugh because, as anyone who has seen him since the show ended, he dropped some weight and buffed out to become an even more fine-looking specimen. I guess having a killer voice and a fabulous wardrobe of bowties and suspenders wasn't good enough for little ol' Eric.

-- After a jaw-dropping rendition of 'Beautiful City," Eric recalled an instance where Lindsay Mendez pranked him by telling him he would go on for her in one show, which got him a little thrown by the prospect of wearing a corset. And then the opening notes of "Bless the Lord" began. And then Eric belted and riffed the hell out of that number for all its worth. And I literally squee'd in my seat, almost knocking over my creme brulee in the process. Eric Michael Krop...everyone loves him, desserts be aware.

-- I never really cared for Ghost's music, but Constantine Rousouli, the understudy for the two leads, took a different approach. He played some of the show's 11 minute megamix for broad laughs and damn near had me on the floor in laughter, especially once the dialogue kicked in. Also, alert the authorities...he *gasp* confessed disclosed to taking his costume, no matter how basic it was, when the show wrapped. Tsk tsk, Constantine...

-- Elly Noble kicked off the Carrie segment by saying how Marin Mazzie is perfect. In which, the entire audience and those reading this nod in agreement.

-- Noble, who understudied both Carrie and Sue, admitted she felt like a lead because she was so short and in the front all the time. Which I found funny because her frilly fun hair looked like it added a good six inches to her height. Girl knows how to play the height game...and sing as well; her rendition of "Carrie" was really strong coming out of a girl so petite.

-- With Carrie's original Tommy, Derek Klena, two feet away in the audience, Jake Boyd sang the unofficial "dreamboat, love interest, makes girls orgasm" song, "Dreamer in Disguise." Lasting a little over a minute long - I would know, I listen to it one or six times a day and imagine Tommy singing it to me personally - Boyd rocked it out to where Klena himself had to have been impressed.


Photo Credits: Drawing with Light Photography, Angel Joél Ortiz-Perreira

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