4 PM: Red Carnations

News   4 PM: Red Carnations
Perry Dellaquila has his red carnation, and makes sure everybody else has theirs.
L: Christopher Sieber checking his mail opening night; R: Doorman Bill Margaretten
L: Christopher Sieber checking his mail opening night; R: Doorman Bill Margaretten Photo by Photo credit: Starla Smith

Perry Dellaquila has his red carnation, and makes sure everybody else has theirs.

"Red wards off evil critics," he deadpanned. Dellaquilla is assistant manager of the Royale Theatre, where Triumph of Love will open in less than three hours.

Dellaquila is the keeper of opening night superstitions -- er, traditions. For instance he will not mention the title of a certain Shakespeare play set in Scotland. He names it freely as long as he's standing outside the theatre. But absolutely never inside. He's so adamant, he makes you nervous about even typing the title in the theatre . . . whatever it may be.

Dellaquila says he loves working at the Royale. He "opens the house" with a flourish, telling visitors "Welcome to the Royale Theatre" and naming some of the most famous productions that have played here, going back to its opening in the 1920s.

Tonight, his theatre has a unique, emerald-green marquee. The posters in front, each showing a different cast member against the emerald background, with tiny crimson hearts bubbling from their eyes, and from the letter "o" in "Love." The colors bring a little Christmas to West 45th Street. Just past the marquee is the busiest stage door in the Theatre District, a long, whitewashed-brick tunnel that leads to the stage doors for the Golden, Majestic and Royale Theatres. Painted traffic-like signs direct actors for Phantom of the Opera to the Majestic. At the far end of the passage way, a blue arrow points you to the Royale stage door. Tonight, this long tunnel more resembles the commuters' Lincoln Tunnel, as the 50-plus cast and crew of Triumph of Love converse on their workplace, joined by delivery people bringing flowers and gifts.

Christopher Sieber arrives for his official sign-in (actors must do so, so the production stage manager [PSM] can keep track of who have arrived, and who might need to be tracked down.) Sieber waves to doorman Bill Margaretten, grabs his mail and ducks down stairs to his dressing room.

The theatre's dressing rooms are arrayed on three floors on both sides of the stage. Betty Buckley gets the star dressing room at stage level, stage left. F. Murray Abraham gets the floor above hers. There is no hallway that connects the two sides of the stage; you must pass the doorman and descend narrow stairs to the stucco'd maze beneath the Royale stage.

This region is a tangle of wires, wrapped pipes, ladders, lockers for the musicians, banks of computers and ganglia of electrical cables for the sound, lighting and effect technicians, plus pieces of the set that rise and descend on elevators. Despite the clutter, this area must be kept clear so the actors can zip back and forth to dressing rooms or clamber up ladders to pop through trap doors. This is also the way the musicians pass to enter the pit, behind a black velour curtain. Signs advising "Watch your head" are taped everywhere.

The narrow halls echo with feet stamping up and down the stairs. Even though they just saw each other yesterday, people are hugging, grinning, trotting from place to place. "Is Betty here? Is Murray here? Where's my tuxedo? Look what Susan gave me! Good show tonight!"

-- By Robert Viagas

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