Luxe Life Blog
Photos: Dragons, witches and neon, oh my! Behind-the-scenes at ‘Wicked’
By Andrea Domanick
“Wicked,” the hit “The Wizard of Oz”-inspired Broadway musical, opens tonight for a six-week run (through Oct. 7) at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in downtown's Symphony Park.
The Tony- and Grammy-winning production marks the first musical to come to the new downtown performing arts center.
On Tuesday morning at Reynolds Hall, the process of transforming the performance space, which has traditionally been used for concerts, seemed more like an Olympic event than a theater production:
The load-in and setup, which began Monday, includes unpacking 15 52-foot trucks containing thousands of props and costumes; connecting 80 stage panels; raising the stage a full 18 inches; setting up 200 lights; and rehearsing an entire orchestra, all in the span of 2 1/2 days.
Despite the time crunch, "Wicked" Company Manager Steve Quinn is at ease, joking and chatting with crew members as they unpack crates and boxes with almost choreographed efficiency.
“It’s been very easy,” he says of the process. “We like easy.”
That’s thanks, in part, to practice: The crew of about 100 people has been able to fine-tune the process over the course of the production’s seven years and 3,100 performances on its national tour.
However, Quinn notes that this stop’s set-up has been particularly painless; by Tuesday morning, they’re even ahead of schedule, something Quinn credits to what he describes as the Smith Center’s spacious, state-of-the-art design.
“Most theaters have two loading docks, but the Smith Center has three, and they’re all on the same level,” he says, adding that the ample space will allow the Las Vegas iteration of "Wicked" to be "ninety-nine percent of what you'd see on Broadway."
“There really haven’t been a lot of challenges, except for the fact that most of us aren’t familiar with the layout because it’s so new,” Quinn says.
With the backdrop raised, the Reynolds Hall stage is almost twice as large as it appears during its normal slate of pop and classical music concerts. The black curtains and stage lights have been replaced by green neon and set panels of enormous cogs that frame the stage on either side. Called the “upstage cog wall,” they flank the faux-rusted metal of the proscenium, which is lorded over by a snarling metallic dragon the cast and crew have nicknamed Ozwald.
Though, according to Quinn, Ozwald’s wingspan is the size of a small Cessna plane, that’s not even the largest piece of scenery.
“That would be the Wizard of Oz head,” he says. “We haven’t even begun to deal with that one yet.”
They’ll need more than the core crew’s 25 people to help with that and other heavy lifting, so the production has picked up 60 locals to assist with load-in, set up, laundry and hair and makeup. Quinn says Las Vegans’ familiarity with the industry make the job that much easier.
“We tour a lot of cities who don’t have anything in town but us, so it’s really nice to be in a city where the theater community is thriving,” Quinn says, explaining that for much of the cast and crew, a stop in Las Vegas doubles as an opportunity to visit friends and family and reconnect with other performers and show runners.
“I think we’re going to see ‘Jersey Boys’ tonight,” he says. “It’s nice to be able to see a show that isn’t ‘Wicked’!”