The Minskoff Theatre, where Scarlet Pimpernel opens in four hours, sits on Broadway, astride the end of the block between West 44th and West 45th streets. Entrance to both the stage door and the theatre itself is from a breezeway connecting both those streets.
The breezeway is lined with Pimpernel posters with the show's two slogans: "They seek him here, they seek him there. . . The Scarlet Pimpernel" and "Don't reveal the secret of. . . The Scarlet Pimpernel."
Inside the crimson and white lobby, steel gates close off the escalators that will take audience members up to their seats. Six people are on line behind velvet ropes. On the wall, a blue and white sign advises "Press Tickets Here."
Inside, box office manager Nick Loiacono and his two-man staff are tending to their needs. "I'm sorry, but it's opening night, sir. No tickets are available," says the man at the window.
Most, however, are just picking up their tickets, along with passes to the opening night party. Everything in order, the envelope is passed under the glass window and into lucky hands. Loiacono, a burly man who's been treasurer at the Minskoff for 12 years, said, "People are pretty civil, nobody gets rowdy."
A woman comes to the window pleading that she has left her invitation at home. A check of the small rack of tickets shows there is nothing there under her name.
Most of the tickets are generated from a pair of computer terminals, which Loiacono says is "better in every way" from the "hard tickets" that were in use when he began in 1985. It's easier to keep track of inventory and to issue financial reports.
Most of the hardest work for opening night -- arranging who will sit where -- is done by the producer's office. In the hallway leading to the box office, two huge seating charts, one orchestra, one balcony, looking for all the world like the Periodic Table of chemical elements. Each seat has been marked in magic marker, smudged out, and written over -- apparently several times.
Across the breezeway, things are getting busier for stage doorman Mike Phillips, two assistants are now making steady trips up and down in the elevator to bring flowers and gifts to the cast. On every door a black velvet envelope from the producers contains their gift to the company: a watch with the pimpernel flower logo of the show.