My Fair Lady and the Alternate Controversy

July 9, 2018

In The Phantom of the Opera, Christine has an alternate, and that has been the case for all 30 years. In the most recent revival of Miss Saigon, there was also an alternate for the role of Kim. Bette Midler didn't perform on Tuesdays after the Tony Awards, and will still only do seven shows a week when she returns to Hello, Dolly!. These are all demanding roles, as is the role of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. So why is a fuss being made when Lauren Ambrose decides to take Sundays off?

 

The role of Eliza nearly destroyed Julie Andrews, so it seems reasonable that Ambrose is ducking out of Sunday performances to protect her voice and be with her young children. However, The New York Post recently obtained an email from Diana Rigg, where she expressed her dismay for the fact that Ambrose would not be doing all performances. 

As a result, many people on Twitter thought that Rigg was right for saying: "the show must go on -- with all the principals", while others, including myself, believe that Ambrose has the right to protect her voice and be with her family. However, it was best said by actor Matt Doyle:

Kerstin Anderson, who made her Broadway and LCT debut in My Fair Lady, is going on as Eliza for the Sunday matinees beginning July 8th, and there is nothing wrong with that. Many people, including myself, enjoy seeing understudies and standbys in roles because they bring something different to the part and make it their own, always in a good way. An actor or actress should put their health first, and it's good that producers do the same.

 

Rigg may be "flying the flag" for actors that performed until they were on death's door, it is just not done anymore. While I have a great deal of respect for her as a performer, I don't believe that complaints about the inner workings of a production should be voiced the press, and I think that it is not respectful of either Lauren Ambrose or Kerstin Anderson. 

 

With all that said, I wonder why a fuss was kicked up over this. As noted earlier, many other shows with demanding female roles employ alternates to ensure the actresses are at their best, which is all that Lincoln Center is doing. 

 

 

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