WhatsOnStage Logo

Miscast or misunderstood?

WhatsOnStage logo
Recently I sat through the UK premiere production of 9 to 5 the Musical at the Manchester Opera House, I had seen the Broadway production before and found the whole thing a study in mediocre, luckily, the exciting cast led by Alison Janney, Stephanie J Block and Megan Hilty helped hide many of the shows flaws with fantastic performances.

Sadly in Manchester that was not to be, whilst two of the leading ladies did a good job, Natalie Casey almost managed to ruin the show for me. Now don’t get me wrong she is a wonderful TV actress and had great stage presence, but playing a shy, timid ladylike character like Judy was not for her, instead she resorts to silly voices and mugging for a joke. Me and my partner could not stop talking how miscast she was, many of the reviews also said the same (she did get some positive however). Natalie deserves to be cast in a show that is a suitable for her, and I hope one day she can, but sadly she has put me off seeing 9 to 5 ever again.
Miscasting is not a new thing, it happens all the time, a role that was so far removed from the performers ability that it severely affects the show. Did they get cast because they are a marquee name? Did the director see something the rest of the world could not? Whatever the reason miscasting continues to be something than can cause major damage to a show or its brand, so lets take a look at some examples.
Gina Gershon the star of cult films Bound and Showgirls proved herself on Broadway with a stint in Cabaret where she received some great notices and also in the hilarious Boeing Boeing. However a few years ago she teamed up with John Stamos to lead the revival of Bye Bye Birdie on Broadway. Her performance was universally panned with everyone agreeing she was the wrong actress for the role (John Stamos was also heavily criticized). Audiences started to stay away from Birdie and awards season pretty much ignored them.
Elena Rogers received some very good reviews when she portrayed Eva Peron in the West End revival of Evita. Now that revival is on Broadway and Roger’s who originates from Argentina went along with the show. However audiences and critics have not been kind ‘she can’t sing’ some shouted and others moaned ‘I can’t understand what she is saying’. Her co star Ricky Martin also got the thumbs down with critics saying he did not have the edge to play Che. Come Tony Awards time Elena was snubbed, anyone who normally plays Eva is nominated. However with Martin in the show box office had stayed strong.
Ally Sheedy was a member of the Brat Pack in the 80s, starring in films such as The Breakfast Club and St Elmos Fire, a wonderful actress who gives memorable performances, however her performance in Hedwig would become memorable for all the wrong reasons. Playing the title role that is written for a man to play, audiences were in shock at how miscast she was. Critics and fans hated her performance so much that her run in the Off Broadway production was short lived.
Mel B that fiery Scary Spice decided she wanted to try some musical theatre, living in America at the time she of course headed straight for Broadway. The show she would enter would be Rent playing the role of 19 year old Mimi. Having seen her in the show I understand why people up and down Broadway were screaming ‘miscast’, from her strange American/Yorkshire accent, her weak vocal and even worse acting, this was a casting choice that seemed doomed from the start. Mel didn’t kill Rent on Broadway (it ran over a decade) but mediocre replacement casting and stunt casting would lead to the shows eventual closure.
Peter Allen was a flamboyant singer from Australia who had made a name for himself in the states, housewives loved his big theatrical presence and his cheeky gay innuendo. In 1989 however he opened a musical that he wrote the score for called Legs Diamond on Broadway. Allen would cast himself as Legs..... who was a gangster. Critics and audiences hated the show and could not get past that flamboyant showboy Allen playing such a masculine role (and playing it badly). The show closed after a few months and the theatre it played The Mark Hellinger was sold off to the church as Legs Diamond was just the last in a run of bad shows for the venue.
Oliver Platt is one of my favourite film actors, but a few years back on Broadway when he starred in the revival of Guys and Dolls alongside an equally miscast Lauren Graham I just wanted to run and hide. Platt had none of the charm required for the role and seemed like he would rather be anywhere else. Critics and audiences wished he were anywhere else and the revival (which was not great to start with) closed early on.
Ben Stiller and the usually fantastic Jennifer Jason Leigh recently starred in the revival of The House of Blue Leaves on Broadway. Critics were not kind to this misguided revival but mostly because of Stiller and Leigh’s unimpressive performances (Stiller’s mother had starred in the show back in the 70s). A limited engagement, the show had a good advance, after the reviews though the advance fell away and the show actually closed at a loss, rare for a show in a limited run with big star names.
So that’s just a few examples of miscasting, the performers themselves are very talented, miscasting is not about putting a bad person in a show, this is simply about a misguided decision by director/producers/performer to cast somebody who is not suitable for that role. It’s interesting that many of the disastrous casting choices were celebrities.
What do you think, have you seen a show where the casting has killed it for you?
Give me your thoughts
Till next time.

- Craig Hepworth


Tagged in this Story