West 45th Street in Manhattan is quiet and chilly at noon on the opening day of Triumph of Love, despite the October sunlight that pours over the royal flush of theatres on the downtown side of the street -- the Minskoff, Booth, Plymouth, Royale and Golden -- onto the Side Show billboard across the street. This morning the New York area had its first frost of the season, adding to the introspective air.
Two years in preparation, Triumph has gone through writing, rewrites, workshops, tryouts, two major out-of-town engagements, more rewrites, major recasting, more rewrites, and nearly a month of tumultuous previews. The work is now done -- or better be. Now, like a deep breath before a high "C," Triumph is taking a pause. A brief pause.
At the Royale Theatre, where the new musical will open in six and a half hours, a half dozen people are on line for tickets. "We're sold out tonight," says the ticket seller, "would you like something for November?"
House lights are up, but no one's in the seats. A few of the wardrobe people have come early to make one last check. The stage doorman speculates that they may have to turn on the steam heat for the first time this season.
A preoccupied Christopher Sieber, who plays Agis, the male ingenue, arrives early with a white shirt and disappears down a staircase that leads to his dressing room. He's the first cast member to arrive. Around the New York area, the cast and crew are starting the big day with a light lunch, wrapping gifts, meditating, working out, making sure friends have their tickets and know when and where to go.
But at Grey Entertainment on the other side of Times Square, the mood is already electric. Suzanne Toback, VP of Special Events and Promotions, is going through her final checklist for, of all things, the opening night party, which starts in nine hours. The veteran of more than two dozen opening night parties of everything from Crazy for You to Steel Pier, she is making sure the florist has the centerpieces ready, the musicians know what time to show, that there are heaters for the check-in table.
The producer calls with a change in the seating arrangement.
Toback has been at work on the cast party for more than six months. Once she'd been engaged by producer Margo Lion, she went to see one of the tryout productions in New Haven. "I like to know what the show is about," she said. It helps me plan."
Triumph of Love is based on an 18th century French comedy by Marivaux. "I knew right away I wanted to do it [the party] at Tavern on the Green [restaurant] because the show is set in a garden, and Tavern has all that topiary and it's in Central Park -- the biggest garden in New York."
Toback said she started the day by checking the weather forecast. Temperatures are predicted in the 40s, so she knew she wouldn't be able to set up tables in the restaurant's outdoor garden. That affected the arrangement of tables, etc.
As she spoke, she was charging the radio headsets she and her 14 staff members would use to communicate with each other across the party room, to make sure the 1000 guests would all be seated quickly.
She called the taxi service to make sure there would be a line of taxis to pick up the VIPs after the party breaks up at 12:30 AM. You don't want your black-tie guests wandering around Central Park in the middle of the night.
One thing she advises against at cast parties:
"I don't believe in reading the reviews at the cast party," she said. "We're there to celebrate what the creators have worked on for years. We're there to say thank you to the cast, company, talent and investors. It's not about what one or two people think of what they've done. Even a positive review should not be circulated. It's not what the party is about."