Behind the Scenes: Les Miserables
By Dana Casadei
Inside the Cobb Great Hall at Wharton Center not a seat is filled. The lights are off, making the rows of red chairs blend together into a blob of darkness. Yet ahead on the stage it is anything but dark and quiet.
The crew is currently setting up for the first showing of Les Miserables at the Wharton, which took place on Tuesday April 3, making it a stop on the 25th Anniversary Production of the world’s longest running musical.
Since it is the 25th Anniversary there are some slight changes on the stage.
This stage setting is going to be a little bit different for those that have seen the show before. The turntable is gone and video is used. According to Trinity Wheeler, the Production Stage Manager, this set is inspired by the PBS concert version of the musical. All of the scenery is automated and there is a lot of video projection happening on the stage.
According to Stage Manager Heather Chockley it takes 16 hours to set up the stage, with the help of 75 locals and 16 regulars that travel with the show.
Not only does it take over 90 people to make this massive set into a reality it takes nine 18-wheeler trucks to get it all here, said Wheeler.
And there is a lot of stuff to get to one town.
With 6,000 costume pieces, 38 cast members plus five swings and some of the largest sets to grace a stage it’s no wonder why they need so many trucks to get everything to one place.
Once at a destination the show also takes in a lot of locals to help make it all a reality, including the 75 that help to set up the stage there are also many that help with other aspects of the show.
There are ten locals that help with the costumes, said Chockley. They have been put to work here doing many alterations for the new cast members that have joined the show.
There are also three locals that help out with the two traveling hair people.
Each wig is made out of human hair and takes many hours to make because every single hair is sew in.
“All the women wear at least two wings and our male principals wear a bunch of wings as well,” Chockley said.
Some of the men also attach chops (sideburns) because those aren’t very stylish right now, she said with a laugh.
Chockley also noted that Wharton is a great place for this show because there are a lot of dressing rooms for the 38 member cast, with many people getting their own instead of having to share; except for the five children in the show, who all share one room.
Along with the 38 cast members there are 15 musicians on the tour, many of who have been with the show since the beginning, but not all are in the pit.
The drummer is in his one area underneath the stage, set up with two monitors and an earpiece to still be able to feel like a part of the show.
When all is said and done those red seats that once looked like blobs will now be filled and the audience will be anything but quiet until those lights that shined on the stage light up again, bringing alive the hard work of the many people that help make this show a reality.