5:30 PM: We're Ready To Do It. It's Done.

News   5:30 PM: We're Ready To Do It. It's Done.
 
Opening night curtain is barely 90 minutes away, and the Christmas morning pace of activity has accelerated.
L: Lyricist Susan Birkenhead arriving for opening night; R: Nancy Opel, Roger Bart and Susan Egan admiring one of Roger's gifts
L: Lyricist Susan Birkenhead arriving for opening night; R: Nancy Opel, Roger Bart and Susan Egan admiring one of Roger's gifts Photo by Photo credit: Starla Smith

Opening night curtain is barely 90 minutes away, and the Christmas morning pace of activity has accelerated.

Actress Nancy Opel arrives and peers at the sign-in sheet. Under "Here," where everyone else has put a check, she writes "No," and heads off to her dressing room.

Stage Manager Arturo Porazzi arrives and attends to his first priority -- giving his mother a backstage tour and handing her her tickets. "I taught him everything he knows," she says.

There's a call from the stage door for her son. Porazzi and the other Broadway stage managers in the neighborhood have a tradition of sending each other pizzas on opening night. His pizza has arrived. Soon, the Stage Managers' office on the second floor stage right is redolant of tomato sauce. Porazzi has given photos of the cast to each of its members, and has taken extra care with his gifts for his own staff. "Henchmen are not forgotten," he says, index finger in the air to emphasize the point. It's a play on the the Act II lyric, "Henchmen are forgotten."

F. Murray Abraham sits back in his dressing room, telling about his "bittersweet day." Aside from swimming and a singing lesson, he had spoken at the memorial service of an elderly friend. "I called it her closing night on my opening night. She was a great lady, full of life, let me tell ya. On the top floor of the theatre, company manager David Auster and assistant Laura Janik Cronin have phones jammed onto their ears, their brows furrowed. Is there a problem? "Not enough tickets for opening night is the problem," Cronin said. We leave them alone.

Things are merrier down the hall, where Nancy Opel is reveling in canned cheese spray and crackers. Who gave her that? "I brought it for myself!"

Susan Egan invites her into her dressing room to see her gifts: a silver heart-shaped mirror, soaps, champagne, piles more. Actor Roger Bart, who plays Harlequin, bursts in to show one of his gifts, a Harlequin jack-in the-box. Many other gifts involving topiary, golf clubs, etc., refer to bits of business he does in the musical.

Lyricist Susan Birkenhead is thrilled, but frantic. Her lucky ribbon, which she got on a trip to Brazil with her Jelly's Last Jam collaborator George. C. Wolfe, had gotten left at home. "I called my husband Jerry from the car. He's bringing it over. We can't open without that ribbon!"

Inside the stage door, someone has piled copies of InTheatre magazine, which has Betty Buckley on the cover, with the headline "Buckley Triumphant." People come in, say "Oh! Look!" grab a copy and leaf through as they disappear into the theatre's nether regions.

Playbill On-Line is set up in the wardrobe room where producer Margo Lion stops by to have her party dress gone over one last time. She sees actor Kevin Chamberlin dictating his "Kevin's Diary" entry.

She comes over to him and hands him something. "Thanks for being with us from the very beginning, and bless you. Are you excited?

"I'm overwhelmed," says Chamberlin.

"So," says one of the tech people to another, "Are you ready?"

One of the musicians coming down the stairs proclaims his answer: "We're ready to do it. It's done."

It's now 6 PM. Porazzi's voice comes over the loudspeaker. "Attention everybody, it's half hour. The call is half hour, half hour on opening night."

-- By Robert Viagas

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