Yesterday, whilst I was busy putting the pieces together on the Lucie Jones casting story Let’s clear up some WAITRESS rumours! ☕️ a much bigger debate was BLOWING UP all over social media.
It was announced that from Monday 17 June Ashley Roberts (Strictly Come Dancing 2018 finalist, The Pussycat Dolls) will be making her West End debut as Dawn in Sara Bareilles’ hit musical Waitress for a strictly limited summer season.
But this led fans of the show to ask “but where is Laura Baldwin (who currently plays the role) going?” Is she suddenly leaving the show? Has she been pushed aside in order for a ‘celebrity’ to come in to try to put bums on seats?
The official Waitress twitter account quickly cleared up this question saying “Our wonderful Laura Baldwin will return to the role of Dawn at the end of the summer 💗” . But apart from that there is little we know apart from rumours spreading like wild fire online about whether Laura has been treated fairly in this situation.
Theatre impresario West End Producer, suggests that Laura will still be a part of the show, but confined to sitting backstage acting as a ‘standby’ incase Ashley gets sick on injured, when she will perform in her place. WEP saying on Twitter “Upsetting. That one fab person is replaced, and still has to remain in the theatre but on ‘standby’, while someone else with a ‘celeb’ status is asked to play their role – simply to put bums on seats. I hear another cast member has resigned as a result. Sad sign of the business.”
This sounds like the most plausible explanation for what is happening. It wouldn’t make sense for the show to say “pack your bags and take three months off, unpaid” – Laura is still likely to be a part of the show but being asked to take a back seat for a few months in order to try to sell tickets off of a pop stars name (which can work). The PR company for Waitress are staying tight lipped on the situation saying only “as the press release says Laura will be back at the end of the summer. There’s really nothing more to add”. But then when it comes to the in’s and out’s of contracts that’s no surprise as it really isn’t any of our business!
Marisha Wallace who plays Becky in Waitress tweeted “If you wanna show support buy a ticket to the show. Keep the show running. See the original waitresses see the new waitresses. See the whole damn cast. Because everyone is pretty freaking amazing.”
And I think we should all take note of Marisha’s wise words here. If you like the show, support it, don’t boycott it until Laura returns (which seems to be a popular suggestion online). Keep the show running by buying tickets and embracing the cast changes. They are made for reasons beyond our knowledge or control and as Emma Williams rightly said on social media “The sad thing is – the truth won’t always out, the facts won’t be known, the wrong people will often be held accountable and fear will grow that this could become ‘the norm’.”
I’ve heard several stories recently about people being bullied out of huge shows by casts or creatives to the point where they have either had to leave or just had their contract terminated – but people won’t speak out publicly about it because of the effect it could have on them securing future jobs in the industry.
Until West End performers stand up and start publicly talking about being treated badly in the industry, naming names, we shouldn’t assume that this is what is happening and that includes the in’s and out’s of Laura’s contractual obligations. We don’t know what is really going on and we really shouldn’t speculate.
Let’s just eat pie and enjoy musicals!
Photo: Johan Persson
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