Backstage @ Broadway: THE BLOG (Part Two)
“June is bustin’ out all over…” (Oh wait, it’s July now!)
Hello everyone! Welcome back to Backstage @ Broadway: THE BLOG. (Dramatic music: “DUM-dum-dum…”) Oops–no June installment as it ended up being quite a month during our run here at Broadway: Now & Forever. With fewer celebrity concerts during the month of June, we started fuller weeks of shows where we were the main ticket item at AMT. For the cast, that repetition was wonderful and also meant our crew didn’t have to load out our beautiful, yet massive set quite as often! (I wish everyone had the opportunity to watch our crazy crew do their thing as it’s an amazing process.)
Now into July–and after two weeks off–our amazing group of Broadway-ers are rested and ready to head into the second half of the show run. Many of us went out of town on vacation or to see our families before returning this week. However, here in Pennsylvania, some fresh new faces were readying themselves to take the stage as we have a new youth cast for the second leg of the run. Our opening youth cast was stellar and–make no mistake–this new bunch brings the same amazing energy along with a new perspective that everyone needs to see to believe. With some time off, a little brush up, and some fresh faces, Broadway: Now & Forever will continue to make magic and create an unforgettable experience for audiences here at American Music Theatre!
Here’s a little pre-show trip so you can understand what goes on before a matinee:
The wardrobe staff arrives to begin prepping our costumes for the show. These are some sweet, amazing people who make sure that we look fierce every time we walk out on stage. From (a lot of) general laundry and ironing, to maintenance, alterations, and crazy quick fixes during the show, our wardrobe staff is top notch. Not only are they colleagues, but they’re also good friends and add positive energy backstage.
The crew arrives to begin their presets. This includes everything from the deck crew setting large set pieces to those in charge of props presetting them where the performers need them during the show. At the same time our light and sound crew ready microphones and check to make sure that all of their instruments are working properly. There are some set pieces that are immediately returned to their original spot after they are used onstage, but there’s still a lot that the crew must deal with when they arrive each day. This includes general maintenance of the set, props, and a good cleaning of the stage. All of this is a part of keeping people safe and helps to keep the show as consistent as possible. This keeps “Broadway” magical!
1:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
The cast and band begin to arrive at the theatre before the show, with the first stop being a sign-in sheet. I’ll go ahead and admit that this is a step I sometimes forget, depending on how crazy the traffic is on Route 30. Occasionally I’ll run in like a crazy tornado, just in time to grab my microphone and hit the stage for sound check. During this time a lot of the musicians are setting up on stage and performers are starting to preset costumes, warm-up, and get ready for the show.
Our company sign-in sheet and call board are located just inside the stage door. Look, I signed in today!
2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. (ish)
Soundcheck! This is when the cast and band assemble on stage. Generally, this is our time to come together as a company and receive any news or new notes pertaining to the show from our company manager, dance captain, or music director. In a lot of theatres the production team tends to leave after the show opens, but with this show being an AMT Original Show we have all of these people around us each day to help maintain the production. That’s a huge luxury! After notes and maybe some spot-checking, we sound check with a big company number, usually “One Day More” from Les Miserables, the show’s finale. Then everyone begins to disperse and the main curtain is flown in before the audience enters.
I peeked out from the wings, just after sound check, to watch as the first audience members arrived for the matinee. Clearly, I was very sneaky!
2:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
“HALF HOUR!” our company manager announces over the loudspeaker. For the next thirty minutes, everything starts to speed up. While the audience is out front parking, picking up tickets at the box office, and heading to their seats, we are backstage trying not to run around like chickens with our heads cut off. When we arrived at the theatre, some of us may have thought we had all the time in the world–but believe me–before we know it we’re getting “FIFTEEN MINUTES…TEN MINUTES…FIVE MINUTES…TWO MINUTES…” as if a big clock is ticking down, and then finally we hear…
“Alright guys, let’s go to PLACES!” This is my favorite moment. If I were an audience member looking in, all I’d see is a random cluster of characters from Broadway musicals pouring out of the dressing areas and filing through two small doors on either side of the stage. For the next two or three minutes, some cast members head to their places on stage while others stand together offstage and prepare, or have a quick laugh and tell each other to “break a leg!” Finally, the announcement starts in the theater. The band plays their first chord, the main curtain starts to rise, fog billows onto the stage, and the rest is pure “Broadway” magic…
Come see the show and be sure to check out part three of Backstage @ Broadway: THE BLOG, as I catch you up on the coming weeks and take you beyond our “places” call and into our backstage world during a show. Thanks for reading!
Michael J. Austin has been Featured Vocalist & Actor at American Music Theatre since 2011, beginning with Music of the Night: The Songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Find him on Facebook or visit his website at www.michaeljasonaustin.com for more information!