This is a subject near and dear to my heart. If you are looking for advice about double casting, its success and pitfalls, you have come to the right blog!
I have gobs of experience on this subject having directed mostly successful musicals and plays with adults and children for over thirty years. Trust me when I say, you too can double cast a production and come out of the experience as a sane human being. I really think that double casting youth theater productions is the way to go. So here’s some advice:
1. You should alert those auditioning that you are considering double casting. That doesn’t mean you are required to double cast, however. You are merely thinking about it. Actors don’t like to be surprised. They spend so much time thinking about the outcome of their audition, it is only polite to warn them. Some people won’t be involved in your production if they don’t know in advance that you are double casting.
2. After you have double cast the show, I strongly suggest you label the casts. This year, I am double casting three roles in Fiddler on the Roof, Jr. (Chava, Hodel and Tzeitel). In one of the schools in which I teach, we have so many talented young women, my co-teacher and I thought it was the best way to go this year. We have labeled them cast “A” and “B”–not the most creative labeling we could come up with, but you get the idea. Frankly, I enjoy labeling the cast with some word from the title of the musical such as “Guys” and “Dolls” or “Alice” and “White Rabbit”, etc. You get the idea.
3. Double casting keeps the egos out of the way, in my opinion. If you divide the strength of the cast between both casts, you are more likely to have a terrific outcome. I have seen many a talented student who lacks confidence who feels bolstered by the students around him with more experience and so forth. Sometimes that’s all the one who is a little more unsure needs–the other students’ confidence rubs off on him. Plus, when one of the double cast actors are absent from rehearsal, you have another person to fill in for them.
4. I don’t worry whether the two actors are the same size when it comes to costuming them. I think that’s costume designer’s problem and no one should be denied a part because she isn’t the same size as another person cast in the role. Some of us just can’t help that we are short or very tall. 🙂
5. Usually, I have the double cast actors observe each other’s rehearsals. Even if I have to review blocking solely for the second cast, that’s my choice. When I stage a musical number, the actors learn the parts at the same time, side by side. The same thing goes for vocal rehearsals. If all goes well, the two actors can rehearse with each other, checking their blocking, going over lines, etc.
Sometimes rehearsals get tricky what with two casts, two sets of notes, two sets of problem solving but I promise you it’s worth it. Several times in my career, I have been double cast myself! And look–I’m here to share my experiences with you.