Behind every successful leading lady is another lady praying she’ll break a leg, in at least 2 places… Candice van Litsenborgh is probably one of the most talented performers you’ve never had the pleasure to hear, because often she gets paid not to perform. Or as they say in the biz, she’s an understudy. In Understudy Blues, van Litsenborgh shows off her amazing range, her voice and acting chops, through a selection of Broadway tunes. She swishes through comedy and more dramatic songs with the elegance of a theatre veteran, making me want to say HA! to all the casting directors who didn’t make her Queen Bee in their plays. The production benefits greatly from 2 sets of international eyes in the form of British director Richard Wright-Firth and musical director Drew Rienstra on keyboards from the US. Despite having seen van Litsenborgh in Pieter Toerien’s Sunset Boulevard last year I had no idea she was THIS good. Doing theatre on her terms really suits her. It is also a testament to having a director who really understands the performer, Wright-Firth is also a partner in van Litsenborgh’s production company, Canned Rice Productions. The Galloway Theatre is situated in the former singing studio of the Waterfront Theatre School, although nothing about the space, with its elegant Victorian chandeliers and perfect acoustics, screams student. The studio was converted into a theatre earlier this year as a space for experimental theatre that won’t cost the performers an arm and a leg.
Understudy Blues goes beyond providing a voice to disenchanted understudies, it embodies the spirit of all underdogs. The production could have gone in many ways, for instance an expose of the theatre industry might have caught a few headlines but could have come across as bitter. Instead it’s extremely honest, cynical, witty, desperate but above all hopeful. I left the Galloway Theatre with a greater love for theatre and a deep respect for its unsung heroes.
Understudy Blues runs at The Galloway Theatre at Waterfront Theatre School, Port Road until 31 May at 20:00. Tickets are R100 and R50 on student night (Wednesday).