Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005
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Beneath the music
The Phantom returns to the Fox
By LINDSAY BIANCHI
It can certainly be said that the magic is in the details when talking about Andrew Lloyd Webbers Phantom of the Opera. With a total of 40 trucks used to transport the scenery, lights, costumes and special effect equipment, Phantom weighs in as one of the heaviest Broadway productions ever. The massive show takes over the Fox stage throughout September, reprising one of Atlantas best loved musical/operas.
Throwing numbers around like 1,000 pounds, 2.5 tons and 2,700 yards, Leigh Catlett, the Production Stage Manager for Phantom, doesnt seen overwhelmed by the size of the show.
Its the biggest show Ive ever done, but the size really doesnt matter.
Overseeing the several days it takes to put the sets in place is a finely tuned piece of choreography in and of itself.
Before Phantom goes in the first time, the structure of the ceiling has to be checked. The chandelier fixture overhead alone weighs two tons. This show had been running six years when I joined it. So I was coming into an established regimen. My task was to learn the show, said Catlett.
Catlett has been working in the professional theatre since he was 19 years old. Ive called the road home for 16 years.
In recent years, he has also been the production stage manager for the national touring company of Urinetown, and The Radio City Christmas Spectacular at The Grand Ole Opry House.
I called my father from the stage of the Opry and said Youll never guess where Im standing right now. Im in the circle! It was great. Catlett has toured with Titanic, Beauty and the Beast, Grease Angels in America, and many other well known Broadway shows.
Ive also toured in Japan with The Secret Garden where they use super-titles above the stage to translate. Catlett added.
As for The Phantom, Catlett says the show has become a piece of history and is now appealing to a whole new generation.
Its one of those perfect pieces that attracts all different groups and types of people. Ive seen it over 1,000 times and I always enjoy it.
Catlett oversees every performance with two stage managers under him, one who calls the cues and one who observes the shows action. Catlett himself watches the show from a closed circuit shot of the stage.
I can hear the cues from there. The shows tempos are slightly different each night. Its Catletts job to ensure the artistic integrity of the production, a job which is invisible to the audience if its done correctly.
Some of the other amazing figures involved in putting The Phantom in motion include: 550 pounds of dry ice for each performance, 1,440 hairpins used each week, one pound of gel used in the phantoms hair per week, 2,700 yards of fabric in the drapes, 35,000 beads in the chandelier, 213 electric candles, 160 wigs, one life-sized elephant, and one radio-controlled boat. Then, of course there are the 36 performers, 60 crew members, 37 scenery and electrical operators, and 17 orchestra members. All in all, its a virtual three ring circus of activity, a spectacle worth taking in.
Phantom opens today at 8 p.m. and runs through Sept. 25. Ticket prices range between $17 and $62. For more information visit foxtheatre.org.
Copyright 2005-Fayette Publishing, Inc.