I feel like a lot of people are disappointed if they go to a show and don't get to see a lead they were expecting to see. Many people seem to think that seeing the main cast is far better then anyone who is a standby or who is the understudy.
Often times, these people are required to know multiple roles and if they're a standby, they need to be ready to go on at any moment whether it's at the beginning of the show or in the middle if the other actor falls ill. And with all this on their shoulders, they do an amazing job.
A prime example is Julie Reiber. She is a standby in Come From Away and for the past few days has been performing the role of Beverly and others. She performed with the cast in Bryant Park and it was amazing! I have had the opportunity to see Jenn Colella who usually plays the role, twice in the show and Reiber absolutely proves that standbys are just as good. Josh Breckenridge is another standby for the show, and I saw him play Bob and others twice in the show. He was so good in the part and I was really happy I got to see him twice for that fact alone.
Above: A video of the cast performing "Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere" at Broadway in Bryant Park
When I saw The Great Comet for the second time, I saw Josh Canfield in place of Lucas Steele as Anatole. And he was fantastic! I had seen Lucas Steele in the role the first time I went to the show but I was absolutely blown away at the performance given by Canfield. I hope he gets to go on a few more times before the show closes on September 3.
Another great example is Donna Murphy in Hello, Dolly! She goes on once a week, and when Bette Midler is on vacation. She is incredibly talented! For me, she is Dolly and I wouldn't have traded seeing her in the part for anything.
Just as the main cast is crucial to a show, the standbys, understudies, and replacements are just as important. Replacements are often just as talented as the person before them or whoever originated the role. Okieriete Onadowan was a fantastic Pierre replacement, and he unfortunately finishes his run in The Great Comet today, as does Ingrid Michaelson.
So if you see someone that's not the original cast member, remember this. They work just as hard and are always incredibly talented.