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Ensemble Dark Horse / Theatre

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Ensemble Darkhorses in theatre.

  • 1789: Les Amants de la Bastille has Lazare, a royal officer who is tasked with maintaining order during the French Revolution. Most of the fanbase love him due to his songs and his Inspector Javert-like personality. As well as Lazare, the Real Life revolutionaries such as Danton, Robespierre and Desmoulins deserve a mention here, since their Historical Hero Upgrade (and Historical Beauty Upgrade) has made them fast favourites with fans.
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  • In the hands of a skilled actress, the Shark girl who sides with the men in the number "America" can be this and a One-Scene Wonder, though it's hardly applicable for every performance.
  • It’s not uncommon for the Harmless Villain and Deadpan Snarker Moonface and the Cloudcuckoolander and Upper-Class Twit gentleman Evelyn to steal the show in Anything Goes, with both being more popular than their musical's actual leading man.
  • The ACT Theatre production of A Christmas Carol has this with the "Turkey Boy", who (of course) delivers the prize turkey to the Cratchits at the end, but is introduced much earlier than in the novel. Also, Mrs. Dilber the laundress (who also acts as an opening narrator in this version) and the "plump sister"(identified as Ms. Clackett here).
  • Cirque du Soleil examples:
    • Mystère has the Red Bird (aka Firebird), who participates in the Korean plank/trampoline/fast track act but is primarily a dancing character who weaves in and out of the action. By 2006, this character was popular and recognizable enough that the show got a new logo that featured it, as you can see at the show's trope page.
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    • La Nouba has a bird character of its own, the kooky dancer known as the Green Bird; she was upgraded to logo status around the same time the Red Bird was.
  • Joanne, the cynical, snarky, frequently married alcoholic from Company, with most of what little fanfiction there is pairing her with Bobby. Her popularity is probably helped by the fact that she has been played by the likes of Elaine Stritch and Patti LuPone, and her solo The Ladies Who Lunch is one of the best known pieces from the show.
  • Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman is considered one of the greatest American plays — not at all for the reasons Miller intended, but he knew why. Looking back, he wished he'd focused more on the character Biff, the protagonist Willy Loman's son.
  • Drood is pretty much a straight up competition for the actors to become this trope so that they may get voted into the roles of either the murderer, the detective, or one of the lovers.
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  • In First Date: A New Musical, recently premiered by the aforementioned ACT in collaboration with the 5th Avenue Theatre, the Waiter gets his own spotlight number in the form of "I'd Order Love".
  • Perhaps one of the biggest examples in theater is William Shakespeare's Falstaff, an immoderate companion to Prince Hal in the Henry IV plays. The plays were intended to celebrate Henry IV, while Falstaff is written as a poor influence who must be shunned once the prince matures. Despite Falstaff's negative characterization, he proved a fan favorite. The audience's sympathy for the character is evident in Henry V, where his death is described in heroic terms. Finally Shakespeare decided to fully cash in on Falstaff's popularity by ripping him out of his previous continuity and plopping him in modern day Elizabethan times to star in his very own comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor. An apocryphal story holds that Queen Elizabeth asked Shakespeare to write a play about Falstaff in love because he was her favorite character.
    • Let's just say that Shakespeare's true intention behind Hal's rejection of Falstaff, and which of the two is meant to be the hero, has been the subject of fierce debate ever since. (The hero is definitely not Henry IV, though; despite being the title role his part is very small.)
    • There have been reworkings of Henry IV which embody both parts one and two, that are named "Falstaff" the entire play is built then with Falstaff for the most part playing the jolly Pinball Protagonist.
  • The two Princes from Into the Woods are very beloved for being absolutely hilarious and singing “Agony”. This especially applies to Cinerella's Prince, being a much larger and more developed part.
  • Enjolras and Eponine are two of the most popular characters in Les Misérables even though they aren't introduced until midway through act one and are both dead midway through act two.
  • An example that catapulted the actor's fame: Miss Marmelstien, a woman who is getting old and who laments her lack of a beau from the little-known musical I Can Get It For You Wholesale. The character sounds like, and was intended to be, a supporting character — until they cast Barbra Streisand in that role, her first Broadway role, and she stole every scene she was in. Supposedly her last line of the show won her a standing ovation.

  • Shakespeare produced a few more darkhorses in his various plays:
    • Mercutio is the darkhorse of Romeo and Juliet. As the witty comic relief, he gets the lion's share of good lines before his death marks the play's turn into tragedy.
      • Many people adore Benvolio, if only because he has a cool name. In many screen adaptations, he has a far larger role than in the original—he even got to be part of the Beta Couple in Romeo X Juliet!
    • Hamlet features Hamlet's lover Ophelia, who has become an archetype of mad girls.
    • The witches in Macbeth certainly qualify, to the extent that some scholars believe several of their scenes (particularly those involving Hecate) were added by somebody else after the play was originally published and they had been established as popular characters.
      • Likewise, the Sergeant in Macbeth only appears in the second scene, but his speech to Duncan — where he describes Macbeth and Banquo's victory over Macdonwald's fleet — is considered one of the play's most memorable monologues.
    • While not being the central protagonist or the eponymous character of the play, Shylock remains as the most widely-recognized character in The Merchant of Venice.
    • Twelfth Night has Antonio and Feste. So much so that at the end of some productions, Feste gives Antonio the You Are Not Alone treatment, resulting in a Heartwarming Moment. In particular though, Feste is quite loved for his wit both being hilarious and quite impressive, to the point where the fool comes across as smarter than every other character in the play, by far.
      • Another example from the show would be Sir Andrew Auguecheek. Sir Toby Belch's incredibly dim witted sidekick, his overconfident personality matched with his admitted oddness supplies some of the play's biggest laughs. Andrew also scores points for being quite sympathetic, with the comedic character ending the show as one of it's saddest characters.
    • Iago's wife Emilia from Othello has been extremely popular throughout much of the play's history for the way she excoriates unfaithful husbands in a touching monologue in the fourth act, chews out Othello for his crime, and delivers the fatal blow to her own husband's Evil Plan, gets stabbed, and then keeps going. She's even triumphant about being stabbed, as the act shows Iago up for the criminal he is. In fact, it was not uncommon at certain points for her to be billed above her mistress, the play's ostensible heroine.
    • When watching A Midsummer Night's Dream, do not underestimate Nick Bottom's ability to steal the show. Bottom's shamelessly hammy and unbelievably bad acting mixed with his unending enthusiasm and energy makes him the comedic highlight of many productions. Not to mention how he famously gets his head transformed into that of an ass, which is arguably the most iconic moment of play.
  • Show Boat: Joe doesn't do all that much throughout the show, but his surprisingly soulful performance of "Ol' Man River" is without a doubt the most iconic and beloved part of the show.
  • Something Rotten! has the very much loved Nostradamus (not that Nostradamus, his nephew Thomas). The wacky soothsayer earns his popularity as one of the show's most likable characters who gets some of it's best jokes and leads it's big showstopper "A Musical", a song so good it's frequently earns standing ovations.
  • Ask someone who their favorite Spring Awakening characters are and there's a good chance their answer will be the gay couple, Hanschen and Ernst, the former being a hilariously hammy Mr. Fanservice and the latter being adorably dorky. It helps that they get probably the happiest ending as well, though some productions will play Hanschen as a cad who's just using Ernst.
  • A disproportionate amount of Starlight Express fan art and fan fiction centers on Electra's components, who are tertiary when compared to most of the cast.
  • In a line of annually produced Swedish comedy plays performed at the Vallarnas friluftsteater (Vallarna outdoors theater) in the town Falkenberg, there is a recurring character, a mailman named Dag-Otto. He first appeared in the 2001 production, which was set in the early 1950s, and proved so popular among audiences that he has appeared in every single Vallarna production that has taken place around that age.
  • Team StarKid:
    • The group responsible for A Very Potter Musical and Me and My Dick, has Jim Povolo. Despite getting a lot of the bit parts, he manages to steal every single scene he's in.
    • A Very Potter Musical, A Very Potter Sequel, and A Very Potter Senior Year has the Scarf of Sexual Preference — much beloved by the Sorting Hat and fans.
  • Charlotte in Thirteen is a minor character, who, with the help of a badass solo at the end of the musical can really steal the show.
    • Ariana Grande played her in the Original Broadway Cast.
    • Also, Archie deserves special mention, even though he's a bit more of a main character. Although this really depends on the actor.
  • The most popular character in Clifford Goldsmith's play What a Life was a very minor one, a dorky teenager named Henry Aldrich. The character of Henry got such rave reviews that NBC Radio decided to adapt What a Life into a radio series with Henry as the protagonist.

Alternative Title(s): Theater