Frequent Broadway understudy and standby Merwin Foard died March 9 in North Carolina following a long battle with chronic liver disease.
Mr. Foard was best known for his long career as a standby—actors not otherwise appearing in a production who perform in lead roles when the regular actor is absent—for such Broadway stars as Nathan Lane, Michael Cerveris, and Brian Stokes Mitchell.
Born September 16, 1960, in North Carolina, Mr. Foard made his Broadway debut in the ensemble of the 1983 revival of Show Boat. His first understudy gig came the same year when he appeared in the ensemble of Mame and understudied the adult Patrick Dennis. He appeared as a regular cast member in Les Misérables, Jekyll & Hyde, and 1776 before graduating to a standby leading man in the 1999 revival of Kiss Me, Kate. Mr. Foard would go on to standby for or understudy major roles in Oklahoma!, Assassins, Sweeney Todd, The Little Mermaid, The Addams Family, and Annie. His last Broadway appearance was as the original standby for both the Sultan and Jafar in Aladdin.
On film, Mr. Foard was an additional voice in the Disney animated films Pochahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Aladdin and the King of Thieves, and Mulan.
Mr. Foard was profiled in the 2012 documentary film The Standbys, which chronicles his time standing by for Lane in The Addams Family and more. The film is available on iTunes.
Though he returned to North Carolina to undergo health treatments following his final Broadway performance, Mr. Foard continued performing. His final stage role was in North Carolina Theater's Newsies, in which he played Joseph Pulitzer.
Mr. Foard is survived by his daughters Phoebe and Bailey, mother Betty, and sister Jeana.