Musical theatre is a competitive industry to work in. There can only be so many shows playing in the West End at any one time, and each show only has a certain amount of roles available, so with such an abundance of performers, it’s inevitable that some are going to miss out. Have you ever stopped to think of how many people are actually auditioning whenever a new show or role open up? You have the ones who have been working in the industry for some years, along with those who are fresh out of one of the many theatre schools around the country – and more pour out with every passing year. Then of course, you have famous faces from TV or the pop charts and so forth, being brought in… Musical theatre is all about supply and demand and sadly, the demand often overwhelms the limited supply. I know a wealth of incredibly talented performers who, for this very reason, are simply just not finding the opportunities they deserve.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Some may struggle and flounder in the sea of faces, but some find their way through and swim up to break the surface. When somebody achieves this, it is always something to be celebrated: Twitter was overcome with congratulatory tweets of triumphant glee when Shrek understudy Dean Chisnall was bumped up to play the role full-time after Nigel Lindsey left the show. Yesterday, the social networking site was over-run again with the announcement that Sophie Evans, alternate ‘Dorothy’ in The Wizard of Oz’ at the Palladium, will take over from current ‘Dorothy’ Danielle Hope, who leaves in the WOZ cast change on 5th February 2012.
The Welsh singer was one of the contestants on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s fourth reality casting show for the BBC, ‘Over The Rainbow’ – which, as I’m sure you’re aware, searched for a ‘Dorothy’ for The Wizard of Oz. Although the contest was won by Danielle Hope, runner-up Sophie Evans impressed ‘The Lord’ and was subsequently awarded the role of alternate. Now, it looks as though she’ll be walking along that yellow brick road for many days to come as she steps up to lead the hit West End musical.
In this current climate, when many people are of the belief that a celebrity name is the best way to ensure a show’s success, it’s always refreshing to see faith being put in someone within the musical theatre industry, especially if they’re not particularly well-known. Everyone who has a talent deserves the opportunity to showcase it, and Sophie Evans is now receiving hers. I hope this marks the beginning of an attitude change in the West End in concerns to casting choices. There’s nothing wrong with celebrity casting if they can perform the role to the same standard as a musical theatre performer – that should always be the primary focus. Getting bums on seats is all very well, but good word of mouth and actually getting them to come back is a lot more important. I love to see talent being rewarded, so I think that Evans’ casting is an applaudable decision. The BBC show aside, this will be her first real step into the spotlight. Something like that is a life-changer, so congratulations and the very best of luck.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
20th January 2012