Theater archives

Broadway Replacements: Your Favorite?


Darren Criss is attracting screaming Gleeks to How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and they’re filling the seats once occupied by screaming Potterphiles.

Which brings to mind the topic of Broadway replacements and how they fare in light of all the hoopla generated by the original stars.

Sometimes they reek of second-rate desperation and can’t hold a candle to the glory that preceded them.

But then there are the worthy ones who don’t scream “bottom drawer.” In fact, some of them could have christened the show.

For example …

Fantasia was astounding in The Color Purple, bringing heart, soul, and oomph to the show — at least on those occasions when she showed up.

I like Brenda Braxton, a sleek and talented singer/dancer, whenever I see her go on as Velma in Chicago.

Usher was OK as Billy Flynn in the same revival, though it seemed like he was dying to cut loose more.

Joey Fatone hardly disgraced himself when I saw him in Rent — in fact, he was ‘N Sync with the tone of the show.

Jerry Lewis amused me when he stepped into a so-so revival of Damn Yankees in the ’90s and gave it some pizzazz.

Liza Minnelli made headlines for messy behavior when she replaced Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria, but I was just happy to see Liza!

Years before that, Liza subbed for Gwen Verdon in the original Chicago and was a dazzling Roxy I’ll never forget. (Yes, this actually happened and I really saw it. Fabulous!)

And Judith Light was superb when I saw her as a replacement in Wit years ago (Off-Broadway).

And through the years, replacements like Raquel Welch, Melanie Griffith, Brooke Shields, and Jordin Sparks have breathed fresh energy into shows that needed the PR boost.

Ever see a replacement player and not want your original $75 back?