By noon on the opening night of The Scarlet Pimpernel, house manager David Vaughn's job is done. Almost.
"Opening night is the night to sparkle," says Vaughn who's been running the Minskoff since 1990, and has presided over opening nights of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Metro and Sunset Boulevard, among others. "The place has been prepped and cleaned, but on opening night it's got to sparkle."
Most Broadway theatres were built before 1930, but changes in zoning regulations led to the construction of a few more, including the Minskoff, as part of office towers in the 1970s and 1980s. "Modern houses only look good if they're clean," Vaughn says. "The white [walls] must have no mark. The black [metal panels around the windows] must shine. The silver [chrome fittings] must shine."
The Minskoff has one of the most extensive lobby spaces on Broadway, and offers, no contest, the most panoramic view. It has nearly a full block's width frontage on Broadway between 44th and 45th streets, looking down from a third-floor level onto the center of Times Square.
Vaughn is standing with his back to the view, surveying below him a two story escalator that might have been designed by Ziegfeld, if the staircase-loving Ziegfeld had lived and enrepreneured just a few years later. From this command post next to the Pimpernel merchandise kiosk, Vaughn can monitor and redeploy his carnation-wearing battalion of ushers in the lower ticket lobby, actross the main lobby with the view, and atop the two additional escalators that take audience members to the orchestra seating level. "The hardest thing on opening night is getting the stars in," Vaughn says. "They arrive, and it's social time. The same at intermission. You've got to find a way to prod them in to their seats. Instead of flashing the lights or ringing chimes, this lobby has a PA system. I normally make three announcements, at five minutes, three minutes and one minute [before curtain]. For this, I'll start at 15 minutes."
He'll be starting that sequence in just about six hours.
Asked if he had a special ritual for opening night, he says, "No more than my normal prayers."