Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Stunt Casting?

I've heard so many things about stunt casting. Some people are so opposed to it. They say it takes away from "real theater". They say it cheapens the show. They say it puts less talented people in roles that more talented (stage) actors miss out on when they really are the ones that need the jobs.

I have my own opinions. Sometimes they are close to those above. Sometimes they aren't. First of all, actors are actors. Sometimes they've started out in theatre. Some of them have professional training. Many famous actors and actresses started out by doing theater in their hometowns while they were in school. Others pursued it further before breaking big in Hollywood. I will agree that some actors don't translate well to the stage. They need that camera and that set verses the audience and the inability to stop and re-film a scene. I won't say I haven't seen actors or actresses that were "Hollywood" famous do a poor job on stage. I have.

But not all of them do a poor job. And is it considered "stunt casting" if they are good? I saw A Little Night Music with Catherine Zeta Jones. I didn't go to see her. I actually went because Angela Lansbury was in it. Is it considered stunt casting to cast either of them? In a way, it was for both of them. I specifically went to see Angela Lansbury. Would I have gone to see the show if she hadn't been in it? I don't know. I would venture to say it wouldn't have been at the top of my list.

I'm sure that people specifically went to see Catherine Zeta Jones (believe me, I would know. The line at the stage door was so horrendous that I didn't even stay). She wasn't horrible in her role. I thought she did a respectable job. Her voice was good. Her acting was good. However, I do NOT believe that her performance was Tony worthy. That, however, is a whole 'nother story.

Producers need to make money, or they can't make the show last. They need names to get not only Broadway fans in the seats, but people who aren't normally theatre people. If they need a name to get tickets sold, I don't have a problem with it. My problem comes when the person they put in that role can't act. Or sing. Or whatever. Broadway is live theatre. You can't cut & re-shoot. You can't auto-tune. You have to get out there and give it your all and do it to the best of your ability. And sometimes actors just aren't cut out for that.

And onto the reason this whole post was started. New casting for American Idiot. Sigh. If you know me, you know this is the first and only show I've ever seen more than once. At current, I've seen it 4 times, which is saying something considering I have to travel over 16 hours to get to NYC. The show has been open for nearly a year now and in all truth, will probably close May 1st (the date they currently have tickets on sale thru). Most of the people who were in the show, were also in the show when it started in Berkely. It's time that they are wanting to leave, looking for new endeavors.

In the past few weeks Corbin Reid and Theo Stockman have left the show. Christina Sajous (Extraordinary Girl) and Michael Esper (Will) are scheduled to be leaving soon. In the few months before that, original cast members Tony Vincent (St. Jimmy) and Mary Faber (Heather) have also left the show.

Mary was replaced by a virtual unknown, so that couldn't have been stunt casting. Tony has been temporarily replaced by Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. That is stunt casting at it's finest. I've missed him every time I've seen the show, but he's filling seats and from what people say, he's pretty good. Once again, if he's good is it really stunt casting?

It's the role of Will that worries me. Yesterday it was announced that Justin Guarini (of American Idol fame) has confirmed that he will be joining American Idiot in March. Here's the deal, there are only 2 roles that are ending around then. Both Billie Joe (St. Jimmy) and Michael Esper (Will) are leaving February 27th. While Justin didn't confirm what role he would be stepping into, it seems fair to say that he will probably be the new Will considering the rumors that say Adam Lambert is in talks to play St. Jimmy.

He has some theatre experience. He just recently completed a run in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. In fact, Ben Brantley, who reviewed the show for the New York Times, said "For the record, Mr. Guarini, the first runner-up of the first season of “American Idol,” is just fine as the stammering Carlos." This is positive considering most of the review was horrible. But in general, I'm scared. Justin doesn't strike me as hard-core enough, or dark enough to play Will. Will is a seriously disturbed young man with a TON of emotional issues and baggage.

Is casting Justin, a semi-well known name, another form of stunt casting? I know if Adam Lambert ends up playing St. Jimmy, that would totally be stunt casting (but with Adam's former theatre experience, I'm okay with that and think he would do a good job with the role).

All in all, here's my view on Justin playing the role of Will: If he gets the role and he's good, I will publicly (on my blog anyway) apologize for my doubt in his abilities to assume such a dark, emotionally disturbed character. Until I see him in the role, I won't believe it. And I hope that the casting people know what they're doing. Cause casting him just because of his name could be a serious back-fire and an insult to those of us who love the show.

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