The Working Theatre: Broadway at TPAC (Nashville) — TPAC — AAPEX

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Working Theatre: Broadway at TPAC (Nashville)

The Working Theatre: Broadway at TPAC

When I'm dancing at the Shubert Theatre
I'm dancing on Broadway
And when I'm singing at the Shubert Theatre
I'm singing on Broadway
But when I'm dancing on Deaderick Street
I'm still dancing on my Broadway feet -
We're doing Broadway
Where ever we go!
Lyrics from "WE CAN DO BROADWAY" by Jaz Dorsey

Nashville is fortunate to be one among those US cities which hosts national touring companies of Broadway plays. For the cost of 2 tickets to a Broadway show (one if you're going to see SPIDERMAN!), the TPAC Broadway series offers six of the most popular shows of recent seasons.

The 2011 - 2012 season is especially exciting, opening with the Tony award winning BLAST (September 27 - October 2) - a tribute to the marching brass band. Next is another Tony winner which hits close to home - MEMPHIS (November 15 - 20) - a story of the power of music set in the 1950s.

For those of us born way back in the last millennium, the rest of the season should provide as much nostalgia as entertainment.

In January, those of us who grew up in the golden age of television can really bond with our grand kids when THE ADAMS FAMILY (January 3 - 8 ) comes to town. And then, from the golden age of Broadway, the enchanting Rodgers & Hammerstein musical SOUTH PACIFIC (February 7 - 12).

The season ends with two more fantastic family shows - MARY POPPINS (March 20 - 25) and RAIN: A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES. Thanks to Nashville's own homegrown group THE WANNABEATLES, we've been getting our appetites whetted around here for as much Beatles music as we can get.

In addition to the regular season, two special Tony award winners are headed back to TPAC - just in time for Halloween, WICKED (October 19 - November 6) and in January, when you could use a good laugh, SPAMALOT based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The Broadway tours perform in TPAC's fabulous Jackson Hall, easily comparable to any theatre on the Great White Way. At the helm on performance nights is House Manager Rebecca Nichols, who tells me that Jackson Hall has a maximum seating capacity of 2,472 and that the average staff for a performance includes 2 floor managers, 19 ushers and 12 volunteers to greet audiences and get them to their seats.

From 1990 - 1997 I was fortunate enough to work as production manager for an NYC based touring theatre company, which has left me with a great respect for all those theatre workers who take shows on the road. I think that knowing what the touring actors life is like would add greatly to everyone's appreciation of these shows. As it just so happens, my friend, actress/dramaturg Debra Cardona, is out with the national touring company of MARY POPPINS, so I asked her to fill us in and this is what she had to say:

"Load in day is never attended by the actors. It is crew only. All of the MARY POPPINS show — and that includes sets, lights, costumes, wigs, makeup, and merchandise — take up 15 trucks. Load-out takes all night, and once the trucks arrive at the new theater, load-in takes about 24 hours. It is an incredible endeavor by our crew, and I marvel how they get through it every time and still have the strength to run the show that evening. There is a great video on YouTube put out by Clark Transfer, the major theatrical trucking company in the United States.

Before we open at each venue, we have a four-hour tech rehearsal, going over set moves and quick changes with the new local crews, as well as doing a sound check with the orchestra. We don't get through the whole show, only parts of it. So the first performance is a new experience for everyone involved. We are all getting used to the new theater, the new orchestra, as well as the new crew and dressers — and they are all getting used to working with us. After about 2 or 3 shows, everyone settles into a performance rhythm and things go fairly smoothly.

I personally departed on the tour on March 15, 2010. The show itself went into rehearsals in January of 2009. This is its third year on the road, and I have been with it for just about a year and four months.

Including the 4 children (there are two sets that play Jane and Michael Banks), there are about 36 other actors, 4 stage managers, 2 company managers, 2 wig stylists, 2 wardrobe supervisors, 1 makeup artist, 6 musicians that travel with us (the rest of the orchestra are hired locally at each venue), a tutor and a child wrangler, and approximately 10 traveling crew members (the rest, like the orchestra, are hired locally at each venue). Additional hair and wardrobe personnel are hired at each venue. Also, each child travels with a parent or guardian. And I haven't even counted the dogs that travel with their owners on tour!"

Thanks, Debra!

Come to Nashville and Go to the Theatre!

To order tickets, please click the post's title.

Jaz Dorsey
Nashville, Tennessee

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