Sniff sniff, cough cough, ’tis the season to be sick

It always happens doesn’t it. Just before Christmas or another special occasion, you suddenly become struck down with a bug or some other illness that pretty much ruins the occasion. At least with me that’s what happens. A cough, a sniffle, something that you know is bubbling up inside you just waiting for the worst possible moment to fully present itself to you.

It seems this festive period isn’t being too kind to the actors of the West End either, with performers this week at Matilda, Rent and Dreamgirls suffering a mystery illness, causing shows to be heavily understudied and in some cases even cancelled.

It started on Wednesday with those little maggots at the Cambridge Theatre. The girl playing Matilda at the Matinee performance was apparently ‘visibly unwell’ from the beginning and after thirty minutes, the show was stopped and the audience told she was unwell and wouldn’t be able to sing the remaining songs in the show but would instead speak them. By the time the interval came, the audience were told that she was unable to perform the second act at all and the rest of the cast would perform a few more songs and then the show would be cut short. The evening performance was cancelled entirely with audiences from both shows being offered refunds or ticket exchanges. Thursday evening’s performance went ahead after former Matilda actor Lara McDonnell returned to the show after not playing the role of Matilda in the show for eighteen months.

Down at the St James Theatre in Victoria, Rent the musical is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. Wednesday nights performance had to be cancelled after four members of the company fell ill including understudies. Thursday’s performance went ahead but with a concert performance instead of the fully staged production of the show.

Dreamgirls hasn’t had much luck since it opened either. Earlier this month, two Performances had to be cancelled after four cast members fell ill. It is thought that because the show was so early on in its run, understudies wouldn’t have been fully trained to step in at the last minute. Last night, despite four cast members being struck down by a bug, the show did go ahead as planned but with a heavily understudied cast.

Theatre fans aren’t happy about shows being cancelled when they have waited months to see shows, spent hundreds of pounds on tickets and even more on train fares and hotels. Even though refunds have been offered, I guess that doesn’t help with all other expenses that have been paid out for a theatre trip. But it’s Christmas! Tis the season to be jolly and all. Performers are not robots and everybody gets sick. The problem is that the cast and crew of a show spend more time together than with their own families and so bugs are easily spread and can’t be helped. It’s disappointing I know but life happens!

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