Thursday, October 14, 2010

No One Mourns the Wicked

Here at the Orpheum, we actually celebrate the Wicked. The cast and crew of the Broadway Musical, anyway. If you are reading this blog, I doubt I have to tell you about the phenomenon that is Wicked. On Facebook all I had to do was mention "ticket contest" and I had over 100 comments within an hour! I loved seeing everyone's enthusiasm and reading stories about the different experiences you all have had with the show. So, since we are all fairly educated on the story, I thought I would take you behind the scenes a bit and share with you some of the things that go on specifically in Memphis with this touring group.

On Tuesday the gigantic semi-trucks carrying all of the set pieces arrived and the crew wasted no time getting to work on the stage. I went downstairs with our Marketing team to greet some of the press who came to interview the company members and watch the set being built. I first spoke with the company manager Erica, who has been travelling with Wicked for five years, about how they get started in a new city. She said they employ 75 crew members, which is pretty large for a travelling show and really demonstrated just how big this production is. What I didn't realize was that bringing in a musical of this scale actually creates jobs in our community. Wicked hires local stagehands and dressers to help bring the production to life in addition to their regular crew members. On the first day when the set is being built, 100 Memphians are hired to work with the crew and 50 of them stay on throughout the run of the show for daily work. What a great way to get involved!

After speaking with Erica I proceeded into the auditorium where I was excited to find that the great dragon, who watches the story unfold from above the proscenium, had already been raised to his overhead perch. This guy's red eyes light up and his wings and talons flap and grab throughout the show.

He's a little intimidating. Did you know that there are two crew members who actually operate the dragon from inside of him throughout the entire show? They spend over three hours 55 feet above the base of the stage. I learned this from my interview with Justin, the head carpenter of the show. He was kind enough to let me do a backstage interview with him! Check out the video below.

This is my debut as a vlogger. If I was a better one I would figure out how to edit out my voice so you could only hear Justin talking about the show, but alas, you have to put up with my silly comments this time.

You can see a crew member working on Glinda's bubble here.
And we have lift off! It was really amazing to peek in on the stage and see how quickly the set came together. The lighting tests were especially cool to watch.

I have to say though, after all of the interviews and backstage tours, my favorite part of the day was listening to the Orchestra practice. I would sneak out onto the Mezzanine above the lobby, sit in one of the benches, and listen to them rehearse while I checked over everyone's contest responses on my phone. The acoustics out there were much better than I thought they would be, and the songs sounded gorgeous. I was amazed at how much I enjoyed listening to them even though I have them all memorized from the soundtrack. There was just something extra organic about hearing it live without the singing that I really enjoyed, like a personal karaoke session just for me with a full orchestra. Of course I couldn't do too much actual singing or I would give away my position :)

What is your favorite part of Wicked? What night are y'all coming to see the show??

For more behind the scenes information, click here to visit Wicked's official site.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Camels and Horses and Snakes, OH MY

Happy Monday and Columbus Day, friends! As a holiday treat I have some fun backstage photos for you. This is definitely my favorite entry thus far. I am a HUGE animal fan - I never got over my love for ponies as a little girl and currently claim Daisy the dog and Mabel the cat as my animal family. I haven't had the chance to own a horse yet, but someday readers, someday.

However we are going to go a little more exotic than cats and dogs. Today we venture to ancient Egypt('s stage set on the load-in dock and backstage...) to meet camels, pythons and horses! Opera Memphis' production of Aida by Giuseppe Verdi was playing this weekend, replete with its own collection of creatures. So you better believe I was backstage in a flash as soon as I heard they were bringing some friends with them. The animals are from a local petting zoo and their handlers were required to be in full-on costume as they walked the animals across the stage for their cameos as you can see above. This is Ernie with his handler donning the Egyptian garb. The larger camel behind him is, of course, Bert.

This is Abner and he was my absolute favorite! Don't you just want to take him home?? He was such a sweetheart!

This is Abner again with his similarly-sized owner, pre costume change :) The picture is a little fuzzy - I took them with my cell phone because flash photography isn't allowed around the animals.
And here we have a lovely shot of Travis and Big Red Ted, the majestic horses presented to the Pharaoh. They weren't extremely interested in me interrupting their meal.

Travis did end up saying hello.

This is an 8 ft albino python named Eddie Munster. He is gorgeous and even more intimidating in person than he looks in his cage. They do not even sedate these things before they take them on stage. I hope they have been fed recently...

This is Machale, also known as Shell. She is also an albino python like Eddie but she is "only" 6 feet long. During the show a ballerina performs an entire dance with this enormous snake draped across her body. She might be the bravest person with whom I have ever come into contact.
And this little guy has my favorite name! He is another smaller python who goes by Julius Squeezer. He only had a brief appearance in the production but compared to the other giant snakes he is downright adorable. You can see him peeking out from his bundle to check out the camera.

The Opera's production of Aida was gorgeous - the sets were truly breathtaking. Luckily they had screens that projected the words to the music, since I do not speak Italian and wasn't familiar with the story. Having the animals there really added to the scale of the show - it was so impressive! I felt very lucky to have had some backstage time with them :)
Did y'all see Aida? What did you think?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Introducing: Our New Marquee!

Greetings blogisphere, and apologies for my long hiatus! I have a fun behind-the-scenes post for you today. Here you see me pictured in front of our old marquee. If any of you have been driving or walking down South Main recently and are particularly observant, you may have noticed a small architectural change and significant wattage increase above your head. Yes, we have installed a new marquee! No more dead light bulbs or Chicago - era antique displays. We have entered the 21st century, complete with LED screens! Outside anyway.

In the office we had been discussing getting the marquee for a while, but I had pushed it to the back of my head until last week when I saw three large looking men walking through our upstairs windows onto the ledge above the lobby. Most of the work for the project had to be done at night after the Trolley stops running so it was a surprise to see them during the day. Our building manager amazingly showed up for work every day after working long through the night to get the display up and running.

Hope y'all enjoy the pictures! Has anyone noticed the difference??