After pandemic pause, Plainfield actress gets back to work as understudy in 'Bachelor'-inspired tuner
In 2019, Alexandra Jaymes' career was just getting started. The Plainfield actress was passionate about the project she was working on, and she was getting callbacks from larger theater companies. Things were looking up.
Then COVID-19 hit.
Productions closed, including one she was working on, Theatre L'Acadie's production of Tennessee Williams' "The Two Character Play," which was canceled on opening weekend. The career momentum she was establishing stalled.
"The first couple of months felt like a fish out of water," said Jaymes, currently an understudy in the world premiere of "Bachelor: The Unauthorized Parody Musical," running through Feb. 13 at the Apollo Theater Chicago.
"What am I going to do?" thought Jaymes, whose substitute teaching job ended as schools shifted to remote learning.
Disappointed, but undeterred, the 25-year-old University of Illinois graduate put to good use the pause the pandemic forced upon theater artists. She worked on her craft. Supplementing her acting degree, she took online classes in Shakespeare performance and voice.
"I feel over the last year and a half I've grown a lot," said Jaymes, who worked on a web series and participated in new play readings on Zoom.
"If you have a really great internet connection, it's awesome," she said.
Still, nothing beats performing for an audience in-person.
Knowing that she had auditioned for the Chicago production of "Love Actually, The Unauthorized Musical Parody" (inspired by the 2003 film), Jaymes' agent asked if she'd be interested in a parody of reality TV's "The Bachelor." Eager to do something she hadn't done in a while, Jaymes jumped at the chance.
"I love comedy and I love musicals," she said. "I wanted to do something ridiculous and funny."
For "Bachelor" fans, the stage version consists of everything they know and love about the ABC-TV show, including crazy storylines and over-the-top dramatics, she said.
"It doesn't feel like a parody, it feels so real ... Sorry 'Bachelor Nation,'" she said with a laugh.
For everyone else, the unauthorized parody is a pleasant diversion during difficult times, Jaymes said.
"This world is so sad right now. There's been so much loss," she said. "We need some more crazy, funny, over-the-top comedies."
As one of the show's three swings in this satirical tuner, Jaymes understudies several parts. She's at the theater for every performance, singing with her fellow swings backstage in support of her fellow cast members on stage.
Swing performers like Jaymes are more important than ever in light of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases attributed to the omicron variant.
"We have to be ready in case something happens," said Jaymes, who admitted she feels a bit apprehensive about performing in-person in the age of COVID.
"Every time I do my nasal swab I get a little nervous," she said.
But she believes the protocols Right Angle Entertainment put in place keep her and her fellow theater artists safe. The cast and crew are vaccinated and boosted and everyone is masked, including the understudies singing backstage. The only time the actors are unmasked is when they're on stage.
"We're all trying to take care of each other," she said. "Everyone in the theater is on the same page."
After the pandemic-induced detour, Jaymes says she's excited to be working in any capacity.
"Everybody who works on the show works at such a high level of professionalism," she said. "I'm in the right room and I'm learning a lot."
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"Bachelor: The Unauthorized Parody Musical"
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, through Feb. 13
Where: Apollo Theater Chicago, 2550 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, (773) 935-6100 or bachelorthemusical.com
Tickets: $29, $49
Rating: For ages 13 and older
COVID-19 precautions: Proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test and masks mandatory