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One of 14 semi-trailers that moves the show
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Preparations under way in the Altria Theater
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Company manager Steve Quinn
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Production stage manager David O'Brien
The Time Dragon perches atop the proscenium, and the map of Oz is installed at the Altria Theater, where more than 100 crew members have been unloading 14 truckloads of equipment, sets and costumes in preparation for tonight’s opening performance of Wicked. The show ended its run in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday night, and started rolling in to Richmond on Monday.
“So if we all have a Southern accent, it’s because we ate too much chicken and fried green tomatoes,” says Steve Quinn, company manager.
Wicked isn’t new to Richmonders, having played at the then-Landmark Theater in March 2010 and October 2011. When I note that the show still seems to be popular, Quinn quips, “That’s our moniker,” and adds, “Richmond’s been very good to us.” At this time, there are nine productions of Wicked running worldwide, he says, adding that the Broadway show has had foreign language productions in Mexico and Seoul, South Korea. In nine years, there have been around 3,400 performances.
As Galinda sings to Elphaba, “It's very shrewd to be very, very popular.”
Speaking of Elphaba, the green one — famously portrayed by Idina Menzel — will be played in this production by Emma Hunton, who makes her debut tonight, taking over for Alison Luff. Hunton’s credits include Ilse in Spring Awakening on Broadway and Maureen in Rent off-Broadway. Her standby is a rising star from Norfolk, a 2007 Governor’s School for the Arts graduate named Emmy Raver-Lampman. Raver-Lampman has been with the company for three months and performed the role just a half-dozen times, Quinn says, adding, “You’d never know it.” Raver-Lampman has appeared in Broadway productions of A Night with Janis Joplin, Jekyll and Hyde and Hair, as well as touring productions of the latter two.
When I visited the theater on Tuesday to take a look at the set-up process, I also spoke with production stage manager David O’Brien, who maintains the vision of the director and designer. He’s been traveling with Wicked for a little more than two years, but has been in this line of work for about three decades—much of it on Broadway.
“By going to different cities, it feels like you’re doing a new show,” he says. “We’re constantly opening, and we’re constantly being refreshed.”
In addition to the cast, 18 crew members travel with the show, and the rest are hired locally to help with set-up. (Twenty-eight of those work during the show as well.) In addition, there are six musicians who travel with the production and an additional nine local musicians are brought in. O’Brien says the orchestra was set to begin rehearsing Tuesday, and the cast would arrive Wednesday afternoon.
Wicked is at the Altria from Wednesday (April 23) to May 4. Tickets starting at $40 are available at 800-514-3849 or BroadwayinRichmond.com. A lottery for $25 orchestra seats (with a limit of two per person) is held two and a half hours before each show at the box office.