Delaying previews is always news on Broadway. When Footloose moved its first preview back four days (from Oct. 2 to Oct. 6), tongues started to wag: Footloose is in trouble.
Production supervisior Steven Beckler wasn't afraid for a moment. A veteran of more than 24 Broadway shows, Beckler has gone from the two person 'night Mother to ensemble heavy The Scarlet Pimpernel.
"You can only do things when you're ready," he says. "It's not scary -- it's just a matter of reality." Besides, he adds, a new ending to the first act and a new opening to the second act were being worked on. "There was plenty of work left in the rehearsal hall."
Most of the delay was caused by set size and space. The Kennedy Center, where Footloose premiered, was literally designed to hold two or three opera sets at a time -- "three times the size of the Minskoff," where Beckler's last production, The Scarlet Pimpernel , currently runs. Tech Production Services, the technicial supervisors, set up a plain deck at the Kennedy Center so that the set was always designed for the Richard Rodgers' actual stage space. Backstage, however, the room was nearly limitless.
After the Kennedy Center, fitting into the Rogers was like "fitting a size 10 foot into a size 10 shoe." Amused, Beckler describes set designer John Lee Beatty stepping into his office ("as cramped as the backstage") his arms scrunched. "This is how you have to move backstage!"
There is no extra room. Quick changes are done on stairwells, and every inch of space is taken by scenery.
But Beckler feels everything is going smoothly -- thanks to his crew, many of whom he has worked with for years. He especially cites Nancy Shaefer, the production wardrobe supervisor (who is in charge of 400 costumes and three or four quick changes), Michael S. Lo bue, the production electrician, and Donald Robinson, the production carpenter.
He says, "I'm blessed with one of the greatest crews...it's the confidence I feel. You know you have an amazing crew."
Right now, Beckler couldn't be happier with Footloose, a project he has been dedicated to since its first workshop. He spent a year (that included Pimpernel) waiting for this. "I love this show -- it's simple, but it's a wonderful musical comedy. Most of us feel this way about the show."
And, as he mentioned in last year's Scarlet Pimpernel Countdown, he still relishes the passing of the gypsy robe -- a stronger connection he feels this year as he has returned to the Rodgers, the site of his first Broadway show, No, No Nanette. "The gypsy robe ceremony is something we do in our business- - it reminds us that we're a part of a bigger family."