On Being a Lead Role Understudy in a Musical

I was understudy to a lead role in my school’s original musical this year (“A Tad of Trouble”)! We understudies (all four of us) got our own show where we all replaced the main actors. My co-star, Jacob, stole the show! Here we are in all our glory:

Olivia and Zander

There I am making my usual “Zander stop, this is ridiculous, I completely disapprove” face (though you can’t really see) and Jacob is just being Zander (a pessimistic angel who’s convinced his assigned human is a waste of time.) I played his foil, Olivia, an optimistic, happy angel who’s always trying to see the best in people. Her mischievous, mute assignment, Tad, gives the play its namesake. He’s been sent off to earn his living with Zander’s “hopeless case,” Obediah, and he’s nearly just as bad as the con man himself. I basically sang a lot, figured out Tad could hear me singing, and gave him the ability to sing as long as he promised to set things right.

Here’s me imploring him to do the right thing:

Olivia and Tad

It’s pretty awful lighting (why do I look like I have a double chin?) but sadly the best in-action photo I have. It’s not dreadful, but not really profile-picture material… you know? Yeah, never mind.

This musical was a really fun one to be in, and it gave me a taste of what being the lead role was like–I was a main role for one performance. So what was it like? Well, line memorization was definitely a big part of it. Once you memorize the lines it’s much easier to get into the character and act well, so after this experience I recommend memorizing lines first thing. The only other hard thing about being a lead was nerves, honestly. I was really tense and couldn’t stop pacing in circles while backstage, but after my first big song my nerves all but disappeared. It was weird, but it just felt like another rehearsal (only a fun one, because people laughed at lines and you were like, “Oh, right! That was supposed to be funny.) The spotlight hides the audience from you, too, so you don’t have to actually look at anyone.

All in all? I’m so glad I was a part of it. Would I try for a lead role again? Maybe. I’ll have AP exams and some Junior Class stress next year about this time, but being the main part was really fun; I enjoyed it a lot. Regardless of what I might say, I really do like being in the spotlight and performing. Not that I feel I’m an extremely competent or excellent actress–I just enjoy it. I’ll hopefully get better with time, because I’ll freely admit I’m not as good as some of my co-stars (or even some of the actors who played lesser roles.)

Does anyone really want to hear these reflections on my drama performance this year? Probably not. I threw this together just so I’d have something to look back on and remember (and I’m also taking a really long study break. Finals are next week. AHHH.)

TL;DR: I was an understudy to a lead role in my school’s original musical, it was a lot of fun, and I’d probably do it again.



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