Last week the West End transfer of Waitress announced that American TV star, Katharine McPhee, would be stepping back into the role of Jenna when the London production lands in 2019. AND there was an uproar. People were livid that the production seemed to have by-passed UK based actresses for the role. And then last night Chicago announced that TV presenter Caroline Flack would be stepping into the role of Roxie Hart for the musical’s final month at the Phoenix Theatre.
It got me thinking, do we have an issue with star casting?
There has certainly been a rise of late of big pop-culture names appearing as leading cast members in upcoming West End Shows (Cuba Gooding Jr, Alexandra Burke, Amber Davies to name but a few). I can’t remember a year so crammed with celebs splashed on theatre news sites, buses, marketing campaigns and theatre marquees.
And this upsets me. Not because I don’t like celebs, but because it highlights the state in which the theatre industry is in. In 2018, productions need to have a ‘big name’ in order to get ‘bums in seats’ and that’s really sad.
And this isn’t just happening on the West End, Broadway is also seemingly suffering with the same thing. With Kinky Boots on Broadway having a new ‘star’ every month and Chicago on the West End churning out celeb after celeb every six weeks, it raises the question as to what is happening?
Does it not defeat the point for young actors to train hard and work hard for years and years to get cast when someone will just be wheeled in with glitter, confetti and their own PR trail? As someone who works within the industry, and who writes this blog, its getting quite boring being reminded what a sorry state theatre is in.
All I can say to Waitress and 9 to 5 is thank you for casting people who can do it. I can’t wait to see Katharine McPhee strut her stuff in London as I know she killed it on Broadway and I hope Caroline enjoys her time on the West End stage. But I can’t wait to the day when these ‘star castings’ aren’t a necessity.
Till next time,