Revenge of the Understudies at Signature Theatre

Revenge of the Understudies was a one-night cabaret performed on Saturday, August 6, 2011, which closed the three-week run of Signature’s Sizzlin’ Summer Cabarets.

Directed by Walter Ware III, you couldn’t ask for a more entertaining evening. All of these performers had understudied roles at Signature the past season: Jonathan Atkinson (Molokov in Chess), Bill Diggle (Max in Sunset Boulevard), Katie Grace Heidbreder (Louise in A Fox on the Fairway), Madeline Botteri (Side by Side by Sondheim), Gia Mora (Norma in Sunset Boulevard), Christopher Mueller (Freddie in Chess), Gannon O’Brien (Swing for Chess), Kirstin Reigler (Betty in Sunset Boulevard), Tim Rogan (Side by Side by Sondheim), Rachel Schur (Marie in And The Curtain Rises) and Nadine Zahr (Side by Side by Sondheim).

Signature’s Ark Stage was arranged in typical cabaret fashion creating the perfect ambiance to the nightclub atmosphere that Signature has done so well throughout the season. Matthew Gardiner, Signature’s Associate Artistic Director, was the MC. He introduced the evening’s cabaret by explaining that each of the performers were understudies from Signature’s musicals this season, and he also introduced the pianist for the evening, Howard Breitbart by stating – “I’ve run out of adjectives for Howard.” Howard has provided musical accompaniment for many of the Cabaret evenings the last three weeks – and those in the audience who were cabaret season ticket holders reacted enthusiastically. Howard once again demonstrated his musical expertise and definitely knows his role as well… he always accompanies and never overpowers the voice of the performer.

As each performer appeared for the first time, they stated which of the four shows they had understudied as well as an explanation of their chosen selection. Some in the audience were shocked when one understudy shared that they had prepared for up to six different roles in the same show. How do you think an understudy feels when they rehearse a show, prepare for opening night, and then six weeks later on the show’s final performance, their understudy expertise was never called upon? That’s show business!

William Diggle opened up the twenty song playlist, by introducing himself in the following way: “The role of Bill Diggle will be played by Bill Diggle.” He followed his introduction with “Instructions and Invocations to Audience” changing the words from Frogs to establish parameters of what we were all about to experience for the remainder of the evening both in humor and song. Songs chosen were from these musicals: A New Brain, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, The Wild Party, Cabaret, Sunset Boulevard, Homemade Fusion, The Addams Family, The Last Five Years, Stop the World, I Want to Get Off, Tick,…Tick, Boom!, Chess, Side by Side by Sondheim and the final song of the evening was the title song  from the Kander and Ebb revue And the World Goes Round.

Some interesting twists of the evening were Chris and John’s gender bending duet together of “I Know Him so Well”, which was sung in Chess by two women and tonight by these two men. Also Gia Mora’s change in lyrics of Sunset Boulevard’s “As if We Never Said Goodbye” to “As if We Never Learned our Lines.” One of the final humorous remarks of the evening was by Nadine who stated on behalf of all the understudies: “Thank you Signature for giving us the opportunity to finally perform.” Let’s just say if there was an audience meter to measure applause, every performer would at least measured a 12 out of 10”.

Running time: 80 minutes.

Revenge of the Understudies has closed. It was the final show of the three-week Sizzlin’ Summer Cabarets. Signature Theatre’s 2011-2012 season schedule can be found here.