Shawshank Redemption without Morgan Freeman, or Forrest Gump without Tom Hanks? Unthinkable! In most films, there's only one person who can play the lead to perfection. But things are different in the theatre industry. In musicals it's quite normal for not just the widely acclaimed Tony Award winner to play the lead, but also what is termed an alternate. But not everyone knows this. And this led to an audience member at the musical "Was getekend, Annie M.G. Schmidt" filing a complaint with the Dutch Advertising Code Committee (RCC). The complainer had gone to see the show and felt misled when it turned out that Simone Kleinsma was replaced by her alternate in the role of Annie M.G. Schmidt (a famous Dutch writer). The complainer had inferred from the newsletter and the website that only Simone Kleinsma would be playing the lead. One reason for this was that these had announced that the role of Annie suited her beyond anyone else, so that she was the actress to play the part. Stage Entertainment, the producer, took the view that it was a generally known fact that alternates are used in large-scale productions. Also – according to Stage Entertainment – this was not concealed because there was a notice to this effect on the cast page of its website. Stage Entertainment further argued that the musical was being sold as a global experience and not as a solo programme revolving around Simone Kleinsma.
The RCC disagreed with Stage Entertainment. The average customer will understand that a lead role will be played by someone else in unforeseen circumstances, to avoid having to cancel the show. The average customer would not, however, expect this to happen in other circumstances as well. The musical's success in the advertising for it was largely attributed to the fact that Simone Kleinsma was playing the part of Annie M.G. Schmidt. The chance that she would be absent from the stage would therefore be essential information that the customer needs before deciding to buy a ticket. This information had to be made clear in the ads themselves; a notice on the cast page was not enough. The RCC therefore classified the ads as misleading and dishonest.
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