re: Mimicry v Acting
Posted by: AlanScott 08:13 pm EST 01/14/23
In reply to: re: Mimicry v Acting - Chromolume 07:46 pm EST 01/14/23

It's known that Rodgers and Hammerstein wanted replacements in their long-running shows to give performances very much in line with what the original players had done. When Josh Logan simply wanted to adjust some staging in the national tour of South Pacific to suit the different performers and what they brought to the roles, it caused both a dispute and something of a rift between them. They explicitly stated at times that what had been proven to work should be recreated both by replacements and in revivals. They entrusted a much-disliked guy named Jerome Whyte to recreate stagings for tours and for London, and he was apparently a stickler for demanding of performers slavish imitations of the original performances.

Having said that, when Alfred Drake replaced Yul Brynner temporarily as the King, I doubt he was browbeaten to imitate Brynner. And I would imagine that Patricia Morison was given some freedom when she took over as Anna. Generally speaking, however, they certainly did want replacements to stick within a strictly defined framework. This may be why replacements in Rodgers and Hammerstein were rarely big stars or notably individual performers, even in those cases where stars had been cast originally.

I don't think this was the case with everyone's shows during the so-called Golden Age, or at least not to such an extent. For one obvious example, there was clearly no way Carol Channing was going to give Rosalind Russell's performance in Wonderful Town, but even back then long-running shows were to some degree machines. Stars might be given leeway, but supporting players less so. And even with leading roles . . . When Edward Mulhare took over as Henry Higgins, reviews noted that he seemed to be imitating Rex Harrison's performance to a perhaps excessive degree.

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