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Diary: All hail the understudy

Steph Parry as Donna Sheridan. Photo: Twitter
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Tabard hopes next year’s Olivier Awards will introduce a new category: best understudy in a show they weren’t meant to be understudying. Let me explain. Last week, as 42nd Street was playing to audiences at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, there was an incident at the nearby Novello Theatre, where Mamma Mia! is playing. The actor playing the lead role of Donna Sheridan suffered an injury, leaving the show’s company manager wondering whether the performance could continue.

Understudy Steph Parry: ‘They told me: ‘Run over to Mamma Mia! – go now!”

Up the road at Drury Lane, understudy Steph Parry was in her dressing room, wondering if she would be needed for that night’s show, when a call came saying she was. Except, it wasn’t for 42nd Street, but for Mamma Mia!, which she had worked on some years before. All credit to Parry, who hotfooted it down the street and was on stage at the Novello to complete Mamma Mia! within 18 minutes of the lead going off.

It’s an incredible achievement, and Tabard takes his hat off to her. And if the Oliviers does introduce a new award, Tabard hopes they give one retrospectively to Melissa Bayern, who not so long ago was an audience member at Into the Woods in Manchester, and found herself playing the Witch after the actor playing the part fell ill.

Send stories to tabard@thestage.co.uk

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