As the Production Supervisor of 22 Tony Award shows, Alan Hall has been there, done that. And then some.
Backstage tonight, Hall is managing literally hundreds of stage folk at a time as they change their set, click their mic, cue their camera, tap their baton and hit their mark - all timed to the second.
"I've been threatening to retire for years now," Hall says with a gentle laugh. "But this year, it's time. 2006 will be my final Tonys."
Arriving in Gotham from his native England in 1964, the 26-year-old stage manager was brought across the pond when Alexander H. Cohen transferred the four-man British comedy revue Beyond the Fringe to Broadway, and he stayed with the tour for more than a year. While on Broadway, however, Hall says, "I fell in love with American musicals and decided not to go back" to the U.K.
That kind of statement made David Merrick's ears perk. Indeed, the legendary producer put Hall in charge of the international tour of Hello, Dolly! "Everybody used to say David Merrick was very cheap," Hall says. "Well, he wouldn't pay you a lot over minimum, but he would keep you working 52 weeks a year." Hopping from long-running hits like Promises, Promises and I Do! I Do! to one-nighters like The November People and Heathen!, Hall became one of Broadway's busiest production stage managers. Moving on to such directors as Hal Prince, Trevor Nunn and Mike Nichols, Hall PSM'ed such shows as Sweeney Todd, Chess, numerous Royal Shakespeare Company seasons and The Real Thing, among some 30 other Broadway productions. It was a full career. And one, beginning in 1979, that included the annual Tony Awards ceremony.
Starting as a coordinating stage manager for his first three Tony shows, Hall moved up to production supervisor. Hall says, "I've really seen it grow tremendously." He supervised all the Tony shows since then, with the exception of the Don Misher-produced years.
His stories reach back to the days when the Tony telecast originated each year from a different Broadway theatre. "The one I remember the most is when Sugar Babies was in the Hellinger." He and his crew had to strike the Sugar Babies set, build the Tony set, rehearse the awards, run the awards show, then strike the Tony set and re-install Sugar Babies - and all within 43 hours.
Hall sighs, not with exhaustion, but rather with great satisfaction. Now, having retired to his home in Maine with Ruth, his wife of 23 years, Hall says, "I've always believed stage managing was a young person's job. And it's time to let other people do the work. I've always loved the Tonys, and have grown to love them greatly. And," Hall says with an air of true bittersweet joy, "I will miss them enormously."
David Drake is a columnist for the national edition of Playbill and author of The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me.