Wicked Tour

The cacophony is organized.

Approximately 20 workers move around on the cluttered and deep Miller Auditorium stage, shifting parts in the massive set for “Wicked” that is being assembled.

From different parts of the stage instructions are shouted, as the workers fight to be heard over the nearly continuous hammering.

A technician yells up as he is tugging on some rigging from the left part of the stage, please make it snugger.

Workers at the base of the stage handle a large slab from the set carefully, while another worker nails the piece into place. Large black crates in the orchestra’s pit below him are being unpacked.

Up inside the loge, which is in the back part of the auditorium, the kleig lights are being adjusted by a team of workers. In the last rows sitting directly under them, are 45 theater tech students from Western Michigan University listening to the head carpenter describe what they are watching.

Finally, the gigantic Time Dragon, suspended well above the stage, watches over all.

The silver dragon, made mostly of fiberglass, has a 32 foot wingspan. According to the stage manager for the touring production, Bryan Landrine, that’s the same wingspan as the Cessna 612.

Landrine, taking a short break from the whirlwind of activity, notes that unloading that 13 trucks that are part of the traveling “Wicked” show takes over two days. Approximately 90 local laborers, carpenters and electricians have been hired to work along with 18 professionals traveling with the show.

Out of the ninety, forty will be staying on for the run of show, which starts today.

Landrine says, by tomorrow we’ll be done at 3 pm, in time for sound checks for the actors. In other words, right before the performance on opening night.

Our job is upholding the show’s artistic integrity- the sound, design, everything. So how many wardrobe, lights, props and set boxes are there that need to be unloaded and unpacked?

Landrine says laughing, I have never counted them. Hundreds and hundreds, literally.

Doing the load-in is like a gigantic puzzle, adds Landrine. The outline is what you start with, then fill the whole thing in.

You have to open your eyes and see the minutest details as well as the big picture. It’s grand scale multi-tasking.

The tour has been on the road for 19 months, and Kalamazoo is the trek’s 22nd city. Next it will travel to Indianapolis. For the 2011 schedule there are 18 venues on the itinerary.

Landrine confesses that the last time he saw his apartment in New York City was on New Year’s day.

Erica Norgaard, the company manager who has been part of “Wicked” for five years, meanwhile is sitting in the sixth row, surveying the progress. After the stop in Indiana she points out they will be heading to Tuscon. She says smiling, no more snow.

Norgaard’s job is to make sure all 75 traveling company members, from musicians and actors to the crew behind the scenes, have hotel rooms, know where the closest grocery store is and fun things to do while in Kalamazoo. Norgaard and her staff coordinate in-house functions as well with Miller’s staff while the tour is in town.

How does everything manage to get finished in time for the show?

Norgaard says, it’s magic.

The Wicked Miller Auditorium runs lasts through December 12.

By Julie Harmon On November 30, 2010
All photos made available via creative commons licensing courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.