I’ll have whatever they’re having


Sometimes, the people making decisions about casting shows are clearly insane.  In professional circles, this can happen when desire to cast a ‘name’ overrides any issues about whether they can play the part (we’ve all seen films or shows where a famous actor really shouldn’t have played the role they were given). In amateur circles, it can be a result of having less people to choose from.  Sometimes, Bob really is the only person available to play the lead, and everyone concerned just has to keep their fingers crossed that it will work.

Recently, I have been cast in some unexpected roles, and in the most recent instance, it has been suggested that the casting committee must have been smoking something very interesting indeed.

It was a while ago now, but the first “wait…what?” moment for me in terms of casting was the panto.  I am not muscular, tall, or imposing, so the idea of casting me as the Genie of the Lamp was not at all an obvious one.  In this case, I was a replacement for someone else who had to drop out of the production, so some level of desperation may have been involved with the decision.  Casting me must have changed the Genie concept for the production as well, since the man originally cast was (as well as looking much more like a traditional Genie) a dancer.  I am very much not.  I was certainly not your average Genie, and this is one of the shows where I feel my performance didn’t work quite as well as it should have done, but I don’t think the strange casting actually hurt the show.

Last year, another one followed after the auditions for When Midnight Strikes.  I went along to the auditions as an unknown, an outsider, not sure whether I would even be able to do the show (due to schedule conflicts) even if cast.  I had prepared to audition for the roles of Edward (the comic relief) and Alex (the in-show outsider), both roles which seemed to fit nicely with what I had done previously.  However, one fellow auditionee (the only other person auditioning who I knew) persuaded me to audition for Christopher, as he thought his song would suit my voice.  Despite my misgivings, knowing Christopher West to be a meaty, dramatic role, I said I’d give it a go.  I had to learn the song there and then, and I was absolutely flabbergasted when offered the part.  Delighted, too – I did a cartwheel in my office after speaking to the director.

For people coming to see When Midnight Strikes, it was somewhat disturbing.  Whether they knew me well in real life or had seen me a lot on stage, the role came as quite a surprise.  No mild-mannered Singing Librarian.  No young comic relief.  A dark, unpleasant character with a through story and quite a few shocks.  Of course, looking back, I realise that to the director, casting me in any part as as much as risk as any other, since he had not previously worked with me or seen me perform.  After the first read-through of the script, though, I did think he was absolutely insane and that it really wouldn’t work.  I’m pleased to say, looking back, that I think it did work.

Now we come to the decision that almost everyone thinks is insane.  We’re doing Into the Woods next year.  Auditions were well attended and a source of much excitement and anxiety.  A number of newcomers auditioned as well as established members of the Society, and everyone was determined to show themselves off as best as possible.  For my audition, I sang “Like Father, Like Son” from When Midnight Strikes, determined to show the audition panel something they hadn’t seen from me before, since each role I’d previously played for the Society was a silly one.  Generally a silly young man (Gerald in Me and My Girl or Prez in The Pajama Game, for instance), though in one show a silly old man, the Major General in The Pirates of Penzance.  Having shown them different, I was very surprised by just how different what I’d shown them must have been.  I was offered the roles of Rapunzel’s Prince (a delight, as I will be singing a comic duet with one of my favourite people) and the Wolf.  When I was told this, I went silent for several seconds.  Of all the roles in the show, the Wolf was one I hadn’t even considered possible.  He is a predator with very, very creepy undertones.  He is unsettling, nasty, unpleasant, and will be a ball to play, but really?  Me?  Anyone familiar with the show has reacted in much the same way as me to the news.  Silence or a “what?” or a “really?”  To see why, see this video of his main musical number :

No, I will not be wearing *that* costume!

In some ways, the casting decision may be an act of genius.  The phrase “I have SO got to see this!” has been bandied about quite a bit, and it seems that the Singing Librarian as the Wolf may have pre-sold some tickets to people determined to see how bizarre it ends up.  I have only just begun to learn the music (though my howl is pretty good already, I think), so we have yet to see whether this particular casting decision is a stroke of brilliance or a horrible mistake, an act of desperation or a carefully planned strategy.

If influenced by some sort of substance, it must be a truly wonderful one.  I’ll definitely have whatever they’re having.

    • Trish
    • November 2nd, 2010

    Yes, your friends are going to love this! I don’t know how you’re going to get into character with this one – perhaps you could persuade yourself you’ve been changed into a vampire!

  1. December 1st, 2010

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