General backstage impressions at Scarlet Pimpernel's opening night:
The beautiful white chorus dressing room. Plenty of room, with lots of light, showers near at hand and a real sense that the chorus is important. So unlike the dingy chorus dressing rooms in most theatres.
White halls, wigs on racks of ghostly styrofoam heads, whirring electric fans, EXIT signs glowing in the dark, a rack of prop guns with fixed bayonets.
Posted backstage, along with the usual union notices, performance schedule, etc.:
A page covered with lipstick lip marks. A local theatre in Illinois is collecting "Christmas kisses" that it will sell for a fundraiser. The page spells the title of the show Scarlett Pimpernel, inspired perhaps by Gone With the Wind. A printout of early quotes from Playbill On-Line's Message Board posted by fans of the show.
Silly drawings by someone in the company: A sketch of a "Tumbrella," shows one of the wooden carts for the condemned -- topped with an incongruous sun umbrella. Another drawing, captioned "'64 Falcon in the Drive" shows a finned 1950s car in a driveway, making fun of the Pimpernel song "Falcon in the Dive."
On the prop shelf: Pewter teapots, a tray of plastic pastries, feather dusters and fake sausages.
On the door leading to the principals' dressing rooms: pages of autographed congratulations from the Rent company, from Hal Prince, from Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS, from the folks at Side Show, etc.
In his dressing room, Douglas Sills, who plays the Pimpernel is doing his warmup, bouncing on a mini-trampoline. He waves and lets us take his picture.
Across the hallway, associate company manager Charlie Underhill is counting the minutes. "My goal right now is to make sure that every person who arrives at this theatre has a seat and everyone's happy."
It's Underhill's first opening night on Broadway, and he is responsible not only for the guests, but for the 207 people who will be behind the scenes, including 43 Actors Equity Association members, another 80 or so crew, plus the writers, designers, assistants, etc.
"There's such an energy and such a buzz," Underhill said. "The cast is so up and so ready. This whole week we've had amazing responses from the audience, and that momentum and that adrenaline has really pushed the cast through -- we're also all really relieved to have the day off tomorrow!
For luck, Underhill said, he'll be wearing a carnation sent by his mother in Carroll, Ohio.
What color is the carnation?
"Red," he says. Then thinks a minute and grins. "No: Scarlet."