The big league arena

I live in a rather sports-obsessed area. I don’t happen to like the sports teams in this area (shhhh!), but for those who do, the fields, arenas, and stadiums where they play are places worthy of pilgrimage and I think it’s safe to say that each fans dream of one day being able to play on the field, ice, or floor where their revered team plays. My employer is an official something-or-other for one of these sports teams and we have a yearly event where different groups of employees can register to win a chance to spend a day playing on the field and it’s VERY popular.

Of course, just being on the field isn’t QUITE as cool as playing professionally, but since it’s as close as most of us mere mortals will get, it’s still something noteworthy!

I think it’s safe to say that most of us in the dance world feel similarly. It’s cool that I have danced on the same stage as some pretty major acts (not at the same time, of course!), but those were touring acts in our own puny venues. It’s something completely different to be on the home stage of a major player.

Well, dear reader, I got to have that experience!

So I’ve mentioned that I became a Boston Ballet subscriber which means I’ve been spending some quality time at the Boston Opera House. This past weekend I was there to see a very different kind of show… a touring production of a rather irreverent and foul-mouthed Broadway musical. You might have heard of it — shares its name with a religious tome — and was written by the chaps responsible for an equally irreverent and foul-mouthed group of four cartoon boys. That one.

Wicked FREAKIN’ expensive, but hilarious (assuming you have a high tolerance for crude language) and, in its own bizarre way, kind of sweet, made all the more special because I knew someone on the stage! The son of one of my dance teacher/friends is the dance captain and a swing for the show. He performed with us a couple years ago as Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Since this is a dance blog I’ll avoid much review… there was some dancing, but nothing too remarkable. Typical cheesy musical theatre dance moves, which were oh-so-totally-appropriate for this show.

The part I wanted to tell you about took place afterwards when we met up with the Captain at the stage door and got a private backstage tour! OMG, wow!!! This was, what, the fifth time I’ve been in that theatre in the past six months, and I’ve only really seen the lobby and the mezzanine and (this time) the orchestra seating. I didn’t even know where the stage door was until now!

Going down the stairs from the stage door led us straight backstage. And what a backstage it was. I’ve danced in places with teeny-tiny (aka, nonexistant) backstage areas. And some that seemed quite adequate. Well, this was way more than adequate. It was huge. Cavernous. Made me feel strangely reverent.

We saw where the props hung out backstage and then went onstage. The company brings their own floor which is laid over the existing stage floor. There are tracks in it for the moveable pieces of scenery (I guess it’s all computerized). Now this is where things got weird for me. I felt like Alice after she drank the potion. The stage seemed tiny. Keep in mind, of course, that the scenery takes up a huge part of the stage, so it makes sense that the open area is small. But from the audience it looked way bigger. But then an equally weird part. I turned to look out at the audience (because isn’t that everyone’s dream?! to be on the stage looking out at the audience?) and it looked… equally tiny! I mean, when I’m in the audience I feel like I’m surrounded by a huge expanse of seats. But from there it looked downright puny. But it’s 2600+ seats! Weird.

We went to the other wing where more of the moveable scenery pieces were kept. Captain told us that not all theatres they visit are this expansive. In fact, in San Francisco there were essentially no wings on the left and any crossovers to the other side of stage had to be accomplished by going downstairs and running under the stage, then coming back up. Crazy! We saw the backstage dressing areas (I somehow expect that BB has a more formal dressing room area that they use, though I could be wrong… I think for the purposes of this show there are so many quick changes that it makes sense to just do it all backstage).

We learned about their travelling crew… amazing how many people it takes to keep the show going. The number of tractor-trailer trucks they use to go from one city to another, the props, hair/makeup, electricians, etc. that they travel with. They hire some local people for the shows, but a lot of it travels. I’d love to spend a week there just to see how it all works.

I’d still love to get back there to see it from the ballet perspective, but regardless of the show, I’m thrilled that I was finally able to see some of what the BB dancers see when they perform. Awesome-sauce!!!

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