Along the edge of the Minskoff stage are two sets of numbers that converge, at center stage, on the number zero.
Standing on that "0" looking out at the 1600 empty red plush seats of the Minskoff Theatre in the soft glare of the work light, it's easy to think of the theatre as a giant musical instrument, a gargantuan French horn, with the stage as the mouthpiece, and the hall itself as the giant bell. Like the larger instruments in the musicians' pit below, this one is sitting quietly, expectantly, for the hands of the artist to take it up .
Just five hours to go.
The only sounds are the ventilation system and a distant vacuum cleaner. Press assistant Steven Pitalo walks across the stage, and the footsteps echo. The only real action at the theatre at this hour is at the door, where doorman Mike Phillips is accepting the first of an anticipated flood of opening night gifts.
There's flowers for Christine Andreas, a barrel of hard pretzels for "James Laura & Crew," a wicker suitcase of nuts for Nan Knighton and Frank Wildhorn, a mysterious white-wrapped package for Douglas Sills. "The hardest part of this job is remembering everyone's face, knowing who comes in and out," said Phillips, who is getting set for the second opening night of his career. He's been doorman at the Minskoff since 1994, and survived the opening of Sunset Boulevard.
Otherwise, he's a man of few words.
"Hectic," he says when asked to describe what an opening afternoon is like for a stage doorman.
Phillips acknowledges not being a man of the theatre, in general.
His moment of non-glory as guardian of the Minskoff came when he refused to allow Tommy Tune to visit Elaine Paige on her opening night in Sunset. "I didn't know who he was, and his name wasn't on the list," Phillips said, matter-of-factly.
Nevertheless, Phillips said, as he signed to accept a basket of fruit from the wardrobe department of Triumph of Love to the wardrobe staff of Pimpernel. I love this job. You meet a lot of great people. Everybody in this company is real nice."
-- By Robert Viagas