These days it’s not uncommon to see A-list film stars making appearances on Broadway. In 2006 Julia Roberts made her Broadway debut in Richard Greenberg’s existential drama Three Days of Rain, and despite several negative reviews, the show grossed nearly $1 million in its first eight performances.
This alone shows the power of celebrity on Broadway stages, and during a time when theater continues to struggle for its share of the entertainment market, it can use any and all the help it can get.
The Benefit of Seeing a Star Perform Live
The plus side for the theatergoer is that it provides a chance for fans to see their favorite stars in a very unique setting. During the run of Three Days of Rain, fans could enjoy seeing Julia Roberts in person and watch her perform.
Other A-list actors continue to make appearances on Broadway and bring with them some major box office revenue. In 2009 fans of Harry Potter (or at least the parents of Harry Potter fans) could see Daniel Radcliffe perform in Peter Shaffer’s Equus.
In March of 2010, Denzel Washington began his run of Fences by August Wilson. At press time, other celebrities currently playing on Broadway include Christopher Walken, Jeff Daniels and Lucy Liu.
The Understudy Dilemma
So what happens when an audience member specifically buys a ticket to see their favorite star perform, and then a little slip of paper falls out of the Playbill to announce that her understudy will be performing her role? Most audience members invest a lot of time and money to see a Broadway show, and this discovery can be quite disappointing.
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Instead of marching to the box office and demanding a refund, here are some tips to increase the chance of seeing the star you paid to see.
Find the House Manager. The house manager is in charge of everything related to the audience. Any usher who is helping people to their seats can direct you to this person.
Politely explain that you bought this ticket in hopes to see the star perform, and that you’re disappointed that his/her understudy is in today. Then casually ask if there’s anything that can be done about it.
Keep your cool. It never does any good to get angry at the person who has the power to help you. If you’re kind to them, they will be much more likely to be kind to you.
In some cases the house manager might be able to exchange the tickets for another performance, or perhaps even give you his/her card and offer you additional tickets the next day. Note: this is not a guarantee.
If, however, the trip plans do not allow time to see the show another day, then that’s the time to ask for a refund. Refunds must be asked for at the place the tickets were purchased. For example, tickets can be purchased off-site, such as at TKTS.
If the tickets were purchased there, then any refunds would be made by them, not at the box office. Again, there is no guarantee, but if you explain your plight politely and calmly, your chances for success improve exponentially.
The other option is to simply accept the fact that there’s always a chance that the understudy will be in, and try to enjoy the show anyway. Chances are very good that this actor will be extremely talented and give an excellent performance, even though they don’t have the credentials of the star headlining the show.
The fact is that stars who perform on Broadway do not always perform every show. This can be a great disappointment for those who buy tickets specifically to see that particular star. Even so, with a little finesse and a lot of tact, finding the house manager and asking for their help can give you the greatest chance that you might be able to see another performance of the star you paid to see.