For those who saw “The Ladies of Broadway” in March, you probably recall a song called “Swing Breakdown.” In it, Amy Hillner Larsen, Kristin Piro, and Lindsay Nicole Chambers gave audience members a peek into their actual experiences from being Swings on Broadway and in national tours.
Most Broadway musicals have people who are hired as Swings. For those who don’t know the term, the short answer is that Swings are the understudies … for the understudies. They cover all the ensemble parts in the show. Which, in theory, may seem straightforward, but it is anything but! “You have to know everyone’s part; you can be thrown in at a moment’s notice — sometimes in the middle of the show,” says Amy. “When I was in ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,’ I understudied six ensemble women. But sometimes, Tommy takes a tumble and boom! You’re playing a man.” Being a Swing for a show is not always in everyone’s wheelhouse. Broadway shows hold special auditions for those who are able to essentially know all the intricacies of a show and keep every part straight. Many times, larger shows like “Wicked,” will have universal Swings who travel all over to the different tours throughout the country. Kristin explains, “I love the excitement and, oddly enough, the nerves that come along with Swinging. It challenges your body and mind like a little game of Tetris. Just because you’re a great performer doesn’t mean you’ll be a good Swing. You have to have a certain mindset and be cool with being an unsung hero. I like to think of us as the MVPs of Broadway! It feels like an elite club!”