Through the generosity of one of the many people on the road with the 1st National Company of “Wicked”, I was able to go backstage at the first national tour of “Wicked” on Saturday evening (before the show and the blackout). It was an amazing experience which I will cherish for life, and I am thrilled to be able to share it with the readers as the editor-in-chief of this site.
I met with the cast member taking me back before the show at the stagedoor on Saturday evening – they were standing outside waiting when I arrived and so in we went. Two words describe backstage very well (and these are the performer’s words) – “organized chaos”. We went through security and passed the conductor and stage manager’s office, then arrived in a sort of management area. On the left was the call board, which had everything from a detailed rehearsal schedule to birthday schedule to a list of personal days, with forms for requesting the latter. On the right was a huge rolling cabinet (there were many of these backstage – they make touring much easier) divided into cubbyholes labeled “Clark – Elphaba”, “Stickler – Elphaba”, “Brown – Glinda”, “Lupp – Glinda” and so on with all of the names of the understudies – inside these holes were literally thousands of understudy slips bound by rubber bands, with several of them sitting on top of the cabinet that had been recently used. A few cast members were sitting in this area conversing.
Next, we moved into the area that one might actually consider backstage – the area where the show takes place. The first thing I noticed is how so much is crammed into such a small area and yet stays so organized. All over this area were several of the bigger props (the “Dancing Through Life” statue, the blackboard, etc.) with smaller props in a stage left and stage right cabinet (these contained everything from the rice paper Dr. Dillamond eats to the Wizomania tickets to the little green baby!). Also near one of these was Elphaba’s suitcase and broom.
To the back of this area was a quick change area – it was a bit like a locker room. Huge rolling closets contained ensemble costumes (carefully labeled with names and scenes) and were wrapped around a large open area. It was amazing to see the beautiful costumes up close and note the intricate details within. We then headed to the lead dressing rooms – in this theatre, they were fairly small, but there was room to work.
After this, we walked out on to the stage. The audience area is exceptionally bright when all of the lights are on! I can only imagine what it must be like with spotlights all over the place! In the rafters, I could see backdrops, Glinda’s bubble, and of course, the famous “Defying Gravity” lift. She also showed me the numbers on the stage – which is how blocking is taught. It is literally, “walk to eight, step back to the stove (the area with four dark circles in the middle of the stage), walk up to five.” Sounds difficult, but it is organized!
Finally, we walked up to the girl’s dressing room (well, the antechamber of it – obviously, my presence wouldn’t have been appreciated in the actual dressing room!) and saw all of the wigs and the ladies working on the wigs in the exterior room – it was interesting to note the differences in all of the different understudies’ wigs.
All in all, the evening was an absolutely amazing theatrical experience, and I am so very thankful to the wonderful person who took me back. I’m sure she will be looking at this article, so be sure to leave your thanks to her in the comments for the insider view into backstage!