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When the Cast Changes, I Go Back

By: Linda Buchwald
Date: Jul 01, 2019

Why I'm obsessed with revisiting my favorite shows when new stars arrive

When I heard that Sara Bareilles and Gavin Creel were going into Waitress, I immediately bought tickets. I'd already seen the musical twice before, but I was dying to see how these two talented real-life BFFs would play opposite each other. A few months later, Shoshana Bean and Jeremy Jordan took over, and I went back again. Out of curiosity (or maybe masochism), I started making a mental list of all the shows I've revisited -- in some cases multiple times -- to see a new cast. I stopped counting at 18.

Even though I realize attending the same show over and over may seem like a waste of time and money, I believe it's worth the cost. It's not just about getting a chance to see actors I love on stage. I find that watching fresh interpretations of characters helps me see a show in new ways. Sometimes the experience is so different, it feels like a new production!

Every Waitress couple I've seen -- the aforementioned Bareilles and Creel and Bean and Jordan, plus Bareilles and Chris Diamantopoulos and original cast members Jessie Mueller and Drew Gehling -- has brought something new to the romantic dynamic of pregnant baker Jenna and her married gynecologist Dr. Pomatter. Gehling was awkward and dorky, which made their affair seem almost innocent. Diamantopoulos was smoother, as if he'd done this kind of thing before. Creel and Bareilles had an undeniable chemistry that just had to be acted on. I was particularly moved by Bean's performance since she reads as older than the other Jennas. That gave both her pregnancy and her fling with Jordan's slapsticky Pomatter a poignant, last-chance quality. Though each pairing was distinct and impacted my reactions to the show, they all made sense within the story.

I wasn't always the show repeater I am today. I used to worry that if I went back to a production I loved with a new cast, I would inevitably be disappointed. Whether I saw a show's original stars, its fifth cast or even an understudy, I figured the actors I watched first would forever own the characters in my memory -- any replacements would just invite unfavorable comparisons.

But when I started revisiting shows to see specific performers, I realized how eye-opening the experience could be. At the risk of being hyperbolic, it made me a more open-minded person.

Now I take a completist approach when my favorite shows undergo major cast changes. I saw all three actors who played Finch in the last Broadway revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and even made a chart comparing their performances. And keeping up on the ever-changing casts of long-running hits like Beautiful, Chicago, Dear Evan Hansen and The Phantom of the Opera is basically a part-time job. Too bad I don't get paid for it. 

Have you ever gone back to a show you loved to see a new cast? Share your story in the comments!


Linda Buchwald tweets about theatre at @PataphysicalSci. Follow TDF at @TDFNYC.

Top image: Shoshana Bean and Jeremy Jordan in Waitress. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

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tweets about theatre at @PataphysicalSci. Follow TDF at @TDFNYC.