Backstage @ Broadway: THE BLOG (Part Three)

from the wings“The show must go on…” (…and it does!)

Hello blog readers and welcome back to Backstage @ Broadway: The Blog!  We are nearing the end of August and here at American Music Theatre it’s show time as usual!  Our cast is going strong and the shows have been consistently magical (I love to use that word—because it’s true).  As a cast we’ve experienced a lot of new faces in the audience as well as a significant number of repeat visitors who just couldn’t get enough of Broadway: Now & Forever.  That’s dedication!  I have to admit that being the musical theatre nut that I am I’d probably make a bunch of trips back to see this show and get my fill!

On another note, have you noticed that the weather outside has been gorgeous recently?  You’ve begun to feel that fall breeze in the air?  Well here at AMT not only do we feel the fall breeze outside, but inside a little snowflake may have just landed on someone’s shoulder, some trees may be flocked with snow, and the colors may just be that of the amazing new Christmas show that’s taking its first step towards the stage.  Yes, I’m talking about the 2013 Christmas Show: The First Noel!  Honestly, I don’t know much about what’s in store this season, we don’t start rehearsal for a while, but it’s true that everyone is going a little Christmas here at the theatre.  Our wardrobe department welcomed a few new people to the Broadway team so that we’re covered, while the others begin to construct the new Christmas show.  That’s all I’m going to say because I have no idea what I’m allowed to tell, but I wanted to give a little shout out to the upcoming show and get you all pumped for Christmas (I know, I know, it’s still August—oh well!)

Okay, back to Broadway!  Last time I gave you a little peek into what goes on before a matinee, leading up to the curtain rising and fog billowing out onto the stage.  Sounds so dramatic, right?!  It is—and I love it!!!  Unfortunately, I can’t be too detailed with time stamps and some of the pictures jump around from section to section, but I think what I have is pretty cool so here we go (will call it a photo-tour, with captions):IMG_470720

I ended my last blog at 3:03 p.m. so that’s where we’ll pick up this time around.  The view you see is literally what I am seeing when the show starts.  I don’t enter until the end of the opening number, though I’m singing offstage during it.  When I tell you I get the coolest view it’s because I really do.  For the first 25-30 minutes of the show, my character basically is you, the audience.  I get to watch these different shows come to life with you and meet some kooky characters along the way.  It’d be hard for me not to love my job because this patron is really me in real life.  I love seeing shows, living in the moment right along with the performers onstage, and stage-dooring afterward to meet all of the people who continue to make me dream big.  When I’m sitting onstage I also get a pretty cool view offstage as well.  There are people running around like crazy to change costumes or make their entrances.  In addition, our crew members are setting new pieces of scenery and props so that they’re ready to make their entrances on and offstage.  One of the things that you as the audience don’t see are the people backstage that are still singing.  Performers may be in the middle of a costume change, but there is a mic stand right in front of them.  This show is LIVE, baby!

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Pictured above is a number from The Producers. I wasn’t able to grab my camera in time, but it is the funniest thing in the world to see a line of little old ladies just before they head onstage.  Before the opening number even ends the crew has already lined up their walkers and once the performers are ready they just step into place.  Pictured below is the area where one of our technicians runs the video projections that you see out front on the big screen.  I tried to get a brighter picture but it’s pretty dark backstage!

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I wanted to take a picture of some of the actor presets during Act One.  This is literally right offstage and is where several performers run to change, some with the help of a dresser.  There is a pretty significant difference in the number of costume changes that happen in Act One and Two.  Act Two is definitely a little easier in the quick-change department.

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AMT performers Marisa Rivera and Ric Zimmerman wait to make their entrance into the Jersey Boys section of the show.

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Some of my favorite music in the show happens during the Jersey Boys section.  The performers and band are just killer!  It’s also the last time you see me as the patron before I step into character roles, with everyone else.

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So clearly I’ve missed a few big sections while I was onstage, but unfortunately, my job description doesn’t include carrying a camera onstage to take pictures during the show, though yesterday when I took these I wished it did.  Act One includes shows like The Producers, Billy Elliot, Wicked, Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia, The Lion King, and Mary Poppins.  Pretty awesome line-up right?  NOW WAIT A MINUTE!!!  Who are all of those people in this picture?  Oh–IT’S YOU, the audience! I don’t think anyone noticed (I hope,) but I definitely stuck my camera out just enough to snap a quick shot during intermission.  I think it looks like everyone is loving it, don’t you?

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Just after taking my intermission picture I turned around to find that the crew had already gotten everything set for Act Two.  They’re fast!  Pictured above you’ll see some of the larger set pieces for “Master of the House” from Les Miserables, and below one of the few presets backstage, during Act Two.  I told you it was lighter on costume changes than Act One!

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Finally, Act Two begins and AMT favorite John-Philip Bowen takes the stage as Tony from West Side Story.  Love him!  He’s so in it to win it!

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Pictured above is the ending pose of “All That Jazz” from the musical Chicago.  Marisa Rivera just blew audiences away as Velma Kelly—trust me I was there!  FUN FACT: Once we open the 2013 Christmas Show, Marisa and I will be on our 12th show together since we met in 2008.  That’s pretty cool!  I love my friend!

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Another thing the audience might not know is that the cute fluffy pup who plays Sandy the dog in the Annie section of Broadway: Now & Forever, actually belongs to performer Ric Zimmerman.  Oliver usually arrives at the theatre just after Act Two begins.  He’s an amazing dog!  Sweet, quiet backstage, and starts to get rambunctious just around the time he needs to make his big entrance in the song “Tomorrow.”  I also included a picture of all the crazy wigs that you’ll see as the show goes along.

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We have now arrived at the end of our photo tour, backstage at Broadway: Now & Forever.  Believe me, there are so many more that I could take but between being onstage, singing offstage, changing costumes, running from one side to the next and thinking through what I’m about to do when I make an entrance, this is the best I could do!  I hope you enjoyed.  Act Two includes shows like West Side Story, Chicago, Annie, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Evita, Phantom of the Opera, and Les Miserables.  Here I am pictured above, posing on a set piece before I enter to sing “Master of the House” in Les Miserables.  I just finished singing back-ups for the song “Phantom of the Opera,” along with the rest of the cast, so pardon me for not having my crazy wig on yet…

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THERE IT IS!!!

Thank you so much for taking the time to check out Backstage @ Broadway: THE BLOG. Be sure to check out part four in September!  In the meantime, come check out Broadway: Now & Forever at American Music Theatre, onstage now through October 12, 2013.  See you soon!

– Michael

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!</em