I've been lucky enough to see a huge range of shows this year, and at almost every show there's been an understudy/standby/alternate/cast member returning. Not only do I love seeing a new take on an established role, but I tend to end up preferring the understudy performing! Understudies have singlehandedly carried the West End since theatres have reopened. Many shows simply wouldn't have been able to continue without them, so I wanted to celebrate the best understudies I've seen this year - and why I loved them so much

Connor Carson - Raoul (Phantom of the Opera)
I first saw Connor as Randall in Bring It On and thought he was incredible. So, when he was announced in Phantom as 1st cover Raoul, I booked tickets immediately. Raoul is one of my favourite MT characters and after seeing several Raoul's, Connor's performance was second to none. I was there for his debut and his rendition of All I Ask of You was simply sensational. Connor's Raoul has, without a doubt, been my favourite male performance of 2022.

Connor Carson as Raoul in Phantom of the Opera

Lauren Jones - Bonnie Parker (Bonnie & Clyde)
Anyone whos' familiar with Stage to Page will know how much I adore Lauren Jones. Lauren was the 1st cover for both Bonnie and Blanche in Bonnie & Clyde, and I was lucky enough to be there for both debuts. From covering the two female leads, to being thrown onto the West End Live stage last minute, Lauren's run in Bonnie & Clyde was truly phenomenal. Her version of Dyin' Ain't So Bad moved me to tears every time. Lauren's Bonnie has, without a doubt, been my favourite female performance of 2022.

Carl Man - Fiyero (Wicked)
You'll notice that Carl features twice in this list because he simply is that good. I visited Wicked in February and I believe Carl had been called back last minute to cover the role as he had just finished his time in the show. I'd never been a huge fan of Fiyero (controversial, I know!) but from Carl's rendition of Dancing Through Life, I was completely enamoured

Kirstie Skivington - Anne (& Juliet)
Kirstie is one of my favourite West End performers. Her portrayal of Anne Hathaway will always have a special place in my heart. Her vocals and emotion in That's the Way It Is brought tears to my eyes every single time (and I did see the show 11 times; 6 of those with Kirstie Anne!). 

Jay Perry - Aaron Burr (Hamilton)
It was my first visit to Hamilton earlier this year and I was certain that I would love the show, but that Leslie Odom Jr. would be unmatched. How wrong I was! Jay's performance as Burr was simply sensational. His performances of The Room Where it Happened and Wait For It will stay with me forever. It goes without saying that Jay Perry is now my favourite Aaron Burr.

Elly Jay - Vivian Ward (Pretty Woman)
I knew very little about Pretty Woman when I was invited to the gala night this year and I was excited to see Aimie Atkinson, as I'd loved her in Six the Musical. However, our Vivian that night was Elly Jay - and she did not disappoint! She completely embodied the character of Vivian Ward and her voice was incredible.

Elly Jay as Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman

Ivan de Freitas - Shakespeare/Lance (& Juliet)
Ivan is another of my favourite West End performers. He previously covered Shakespeare and Lance in & Juliet. He played both roles so convincingly that I couldn't possibly choose just one. He brought so much to both roles and fast became my favourite in both (and still is!). Ivan's rendition of Shape of My Heart is one of my favourites.

Georgia Gagen - Heather McNamara (Heathers)
Heathers is one of the shows that I've been back to for many visits, and seen a few different casts. Most recently, I was there for Georgia Gagen's Heather Mac debut. If you get a chance to see her sing Lifeboat, I would highly recommend. It's heartbreakingly stunning. I haven't loved a Mac as much since Sophie Isaacs.

Georgia Gagen as Heather McNamara in Heathers

James Lawrence - Nick Carraway (Immersive Gatsby)
This is a slightly different show, as it was an immersive experience. During the show, I fell in love with James Lawrence's portrayal of Nick. He was everything I envisioned the character to be when reading the book. I later found out that James was a returning cast member for one night only to cover the role, so I considered myself very lucky

Carl Man - Romeo (& Juliet)
It's time for Carl's second appearance in the list. When Jordan Luke Gage left & Juliet, I could only think of Carl as the perfect replacement, so when he was announced as 1st cover Romeo, I was overjoyed. I was there for Carl's Romeo debut and he did not disappoint. He's absolutely hilarious, and so incredibly talented.

Have you seen any of the West End actors from my list? Who would you add to the list? I'd love to know your favourite understudies of 2022 so far!

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