An understudy in Chichester Festival Theatre’s Me and My Girl has garnered rave reviews after stepping in for Matt Lucas who was forced to pull out just hours before press night.
Ryan Pidgen had just a few hours to learn the lead part of Bill Snibson after Lucas withdrew from the performance on the advice of his doctor.
Writing in the Telegraph, Ben Lawrence said Pidgen’s “breezy professionalism [ensured] that the audience were eating out of his hand from start to finish”, and praised his “Lucasian” comic timing.
Meanwhile, the Guardian’s Natalie Haynes said it was “hard to imagine he and his co-stars could have done a better job after a month of rehearsals”, and The Stage reviewer Bella Todd described Pidgen as “funny, slip free and extraordinarily at ease”.
The press night audience was addressed by Chichester’s artistic director and the show’s director Daniel Evans ahead of the performance, who announced that Lucas was unable to perform.
Lucas said on Twitter he had “lost his voice” and had been told he must not speak for 48 hours. He is expected to rejoin the cast for the evening performance on July 11.
In an interview with The Stage, Pidgen said he had not yet officially started learning the part because changes had been made to the production during previews.
“Everything I did on press night was just from watching Matt for the last six weeks and absorbing what he’s been doing. So, there was lots of me being dragged around the stage… There were moments where I’d open my mouth and I wasn’t sure what was about to come out, and then a line would come out and it was thankfully the right one,” he said.
He added: “Today has been amazing too, with texts and tweets all over the place. My phone has been non-stop. Twitter’s going crazy with just the loveliest people, and it’s just been overwhelming.”
Last month, Steph Parry, an standby performer in 42nd Street, took over the lead role in nearby West End show Mamma Mia! within minutes of the original performer being injured. She has since been cast in the leading role of Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street.