Last week, 9 To 5 the Musical performer Rhiane Drummond tweeted about how she was the Understudy to Love Island’s Amber Davies and the first person of colour to perform this role. She said “for two performances on Thursday 21st Feb I played the role of Judy Bernly in the Original West End Cast of 9 to 5 Musical. I just wondered if you knew if I was the first person of colour to perform this role on this scale?”
Twitter complainer Sandra Priddle responded by saying “Please tell us if you get any scheduled dates. I am waiting to support a real WE performer in the role! Sssh I know that won’t be popular ha!”
She continued “Anyone in the industry who has worked hard to get to the West End will not agree with stunt casting! I know that to be fact! Money is the motivation for stunt casting and that does not make it correct!” “What about the thousands of talented ensemble casts that are waiting for their break? They are being denied their opportunity because of stunt casting. Can you honestly say that is fair?”
It appears Sandra may have got her facts wrong this time, not bothering to check Amber Davies‘s background, where she would have found out she is actually a fully trained Musical Theatre actress who spent three years at the Urdang Academy when she was sixteen, studying the craft. Amber said: “You have no idea how hard I have worked. 3 years of 12 hour days in one of the top collages @Urdang_Academy at the age of 16. Unfortunately Sandra you’re WRONG ❤️”
As I wrote in a blog post in 2017 called ‘Is celebrity casting ever a good thing?’ “Celebrities mean more people buy tickets – ticket sales mean a successful run of a show – a successful show keeps actors employed.” So theatre performers are not being ‘denied’ opportunities because of celebrity casting. Familiar names (to the public) do help to sell tickets, which can help to ensure a long running show. Therefore, many employed performers have a job, thanks to the way the show has been marketed.
If a trained performer is able to get work on television or in films, then why shouldn’t they? And yes, it may help to raise their profile and make them a more recognisable ‘name’ that people will flock to the theatre to see. But that isn’t a bad thing. That’s just called being clever!
And as far as Sandra’s suggestion that ‘Anyone in the industry who has worked hard to get to the West End will not agree with stunt casting’, she appears to have got that wrong as well. A plethora of West End performers have Tweeted their support for Amber, including fellow cast members, casting directors and teachers.
So yes Sandra, you are indeed wrong on this occasion. Amber Davies is a fully trained performer who just happens to also have done television work (as many other performers have done too). Social media is a tool that allows people to have their own opinions but if you are going to do it, make sure you get your facts right first! Also, why not just try to be a nice person and keep your negative thoughts to yourself?
Photo: Craig Sugden
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