So here it is, the Saturday before we leave, and I am home after the last day at NIDA rehearsing. And of course, because we leave on Wednesday and tomorrow is Christmas Eve and thus nobody’s working, we have had a crisis. Our very adorable, talented Rum Tum Tugger was too in the moment during his number and jumped off a piano and landed badly, and what we at first thought was a sprain turned out to be a fracture, complete with cast for six weeks, a.k.a. the entire span of the taiwan season. Which is truly a bummer, for a variety of reasons. First of all, in the purest sense of the show, it sucks. He was a fantastic Tugger, which is not an easy role – you have to walk out as the sexiest thing alive, with a mix of cockiness, arrogance, and attractiveness that isn’t easy to fake. On another level, it sucks for him, who has rehearsed for so long only to get to days before we leave, and then get stuck with an injury that will not only insure that he cannot come with us, but also prevent him from otherwise enjoying the Australian summer. It sucks for me, because he was my designated eye candy (what shoulders! what lusciously scruffy hair!) and showcrush (a necessary thing to have on a show, and much easier to handle than an actual showmance). And boy, does it suck for us. The way that the show is structured, all of the covers are swings. Which means that in a situation like this, you have two choices. One is to replace the actor outright, which at this late stage entails finding someone who has played the part before and who is willing to get on a plane and give up whatever he has had scheduled for the next month and a half. The second option is, if you have an understudy who is good enough, to have him take over the role. While this seems like an easy solution, in some ways it is far more problematic – if, as in our show, the understudy is a swing who covers many roles, you are leaving exposed any number of other actors who will not have a cover. And replacing a swing is hard – you need to find someone who knows, or can learn, many different parts very quickly. It’s almost like playing theatrical RISK – do you put your eggs in one basket, and have the understudy take over the important role, knowing that they know it, but risk being unprepared if anything should happen to the other actors he covers while you try to find and train another swing? Or do you keep your swing as a show MVP, and move the ends of the earth to find someone else to fill what is a very important role in the show at the last minute?
We have gone for the first option, and luckily have found someone who has been a swing for Cats before, so the solid understudy can step in for Taiwan. This was after we considered a variety of things, including importing a Scandinavian or American Tugger (while it would seem practical to tap America, this is actually more problematic – there are many versions of cats that are performed, and the one they do in Australia is different from the American version, in choreography and in some plot and song choices). So my Saturday night will be spent getting this person on a flight to Taiwan, hopefully next wednesday, which is when everyone else in the cast will fly, and also has the distinction of being the day when everyone in Australia gets off holiday and goes back to work. Everyone including the travel agents. This should be interesting.