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22 Secrets Understudies Will Never Tell You

There’s no business like showbusiness, even if that does mean wearing a costume bought from a charity shop an hour before curtain-up.

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1. Being an understudy is just as hard as being in the main cast.

Warner Bros / Via

We'll have two or three auditions and work on multiple scenes with a tough director before we're offered the job. So don't think for a minute getting an understudy gig is easy.

2. And once we get the job, we have a million lines and songs to learn.


We might be understudying three to five roles, which means three to five sets of dialogue to remember. And if we're a Swing in a musical, there are dance steps to learn too. It's not easy.

3. We get so used to being in the background, it can be a little overwhelming when everyone fusses over us.

@wadentheh20 / Via

Overhwelming, but awesome.

4. And we're absolutely terrified the first time we go on for a lead role.

Universal Television

We suddenly realise we haven't practiced for months, and we have no idea where our script is, and OH HELP!

5. Which means we're always appreciative of people who wish us luck or send compliments when our time in the spotlight arrives.


If you tweet us after the show to say you enjoyed our performance, we'll be your online friend for life.

6. We get especially excited when we're on at the same time as another understudy.

Catherine Millsom / Via

We've become close friends off-stage, and now we get to show off our chemistry and talent to the world, together. Yes!

7. No matter how many people protest otherwise, we know we'll always be compared with the person who normally plays the role.

NBC / Via

That's fine. But excuse us if we roll our eyes when you give us notes though.

8. If we're a hit, it might take a few days for the reality to sink in.

I finally realised where I was tonight. Thank you to everyone who has come and supported Funny Girl and our company, absent and present.

Via Twitter: @natashajbarnes

9. And if we become a global phenomenon in the process of doing our job, then so much the better.

Now people are all raging they'll be seeing Glenn Close and not Ria Jones in Sunset Boulevard tonight

Via Twitter: @iamheatherh

It happens!

10. We dream of being thrown on stage at the last minute.

Even if we've never sung with the orchestra before, or run the show the whole way through, or had a costume fitting, this is showbiz and we can't wait to save the day.
Kevin Wilson / BuzzFeed

Even if we've never sung with the orchestra before, or run the show the whole way through, or had a costume fitting, this is showbiz and we can't wait to save the day.

11. But we'd never trip anyone up to get on stage.


That's a myth.

12. And we know you'll be disappointed that the celeb lead is off.


And that's OK. We get it. But we promise you'll still have a great night. So hold off on those boos; we can hear them via the floor mics at the front of the stage, and it's not an ideal start to our show.

13. It is a bit annoying when the person you've covering can't quite decide whether they're ill or not.


At 6pm you're sick. At 6.30 you're fine again. At 6.45pm you're going home in an Uber, at 6.50 you're not. Make a decision people! We need to let our mums know whether to rush to the theatre or not!

14. And it's very annoying when the press assemble the cast for opening night photos and forget to include us.


It makes us feel a bit invisible and our self-esteem takes a tumble.

15. We look forward to Tuesday or Friday afternoons the most.


That's when we have our understudy rehearsals, which is when we get to work on our scenes on stage, while everyone else is at home. Joyous.

16. Sometimes our enthusiasm freaks out the actors who are on stage every day.


They're more used to it than we are.

17. But we're nothing compared with our parents, who get really excited when they see us acting with a famous co-star.


Their pride is sweet, if a bit OTT.

18. Often it's the understudy who does the public appearances for the show, so you might catch us in a shopping mall or at a charity fundraiser.

@francishaugen / Via Instagram: @francishaugen

It's actually pretty fun.

19. We love seeing our names on the cast list, especially when it’s in alphabetical order and we’re integrated with the other actors.

No mention of our understudy status here. Thank you very much, poster designers.
Emerald Jones / BuzzFeed

No mention of our understudy status here. Thank you very much, poster designers.

20. Our costumes never fit as well as the lead actors' costumes.


We won't cry about it though. We're just glad if they zip up at all and aren't 100 years old.

21. We love our pay check when the lead goes off for a week.


With all that extra cash, we can buy a round of drinks, or upgrade our Classpass subscription.

22. And yet despite all the joys of the job, we don't plan on being understudies for ever.

10 years ago, two guys played understudies in a west end show, tonight one of them, presented an @Olivierawards to…

Luke Evans / Via

In fact, we plan on winning some pretty major awards one day. So it may be worth getting our autograph at stage door after all.

This post was written under a pseudonym.