The Richmond Dress Rehearsal

by Mike on February 16, 2012 · 2 comments

It is always a challenge to open an elaborate show like The Lion King in a new city every month.  For instance, after the show wrapped in Minneapolis on Sunday, the cast, crew and costumes had just 2-3 days to reach the next city — and some drove the long 1,200 miles to Richmond, Virginia. There are TWO traveling sets, which switch off cities, so the Minneapolis “advance” set will make its way to New Orleans for show performances starting in March. As for Richmond, that “advance” set came from the Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore, which ended its run in December 2011. The logistics of travel and shipping have to be spot on; everyone and everything must be in place and ready in Richmond, in time for our first afternoon dress rehearsal and preview performance on Wednesday. The show, as we say, must go on!

The first dress rehearsal is a time for the cast and crew to get acquainted with their new theater. Every theater is different, from the physical size, to the layout, as well as some technical limitations. We also get to know the local crew, including some wardrobe dressers that need to be trained on the intricate process of helping the actors into their complex costumes. Everyone has to be very focused to make sure the production is the same top quality show in every location, and never has this been truer than in Richmond’s Landmark Theater.

The Landmark Theatre was built by the Shriners in 1927 as a lavish replicate of a mosque, so it was originally known as “The Mosque”. It’s truly unique, with towering minarets on the façade and Masonic symbols throughout. As is usually the case with historically significant theaters, The Landmark has been a true test for the cast and crew of The Lion King. It is known for its tremendous acoustics; but little is said about its small wing space (backstage area), which can create logistical challenges for a big production like The Lion King. In fact, the theater had recently upgraded the spaces backstage in order to accommodate The Lion King, its first Broadway show of this magnitude; without these upgrades, it would have been impossible to mount the production. For instance, the carpenters had to actually create an entire new door, upstage right (by breaking through the existing walls) just so the Pumbaa costume could fit through and make the appropriate entrance onto the stage! All of these structural changes have been designed way ahead of time — in fact, Mike the head carpenter said he’d been devising plans for the Landmark stage back in 2010. And right now, he’s figuring out how to best construct the top-secret venues that the show will perform at in 2014!

As always, everyone brought their A game, and Richmond will soon get to enjoy The Lion King in all its splendor when the curtain rises this Friday for opening night!

We got permission for Max to sit in on the dress rehearsal, and he saw his first ever Lion King performance. He was mesmerized. He clapped whenever he felt moved — not necessarily when everyone else did (like after the end of a song).

Max loved the view down into the orchestra pit. The majority of the musicians travel with the production — one violinist has been on tour for over 8 years!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ron McPeak February 16, 2012 at 7:51 pm



Sustainable Leadership November 25, 2014 at 11:34 pm

Inspiring queest there. What occurred after?
Good luck!


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