Moving Into A New Theater

Most people are never aware of the hard work that goes into installing our hour long headline show into a new theater, so I’d like to take you, in detail, through a typical show day for me when performing in a new venue.

When we are booked to perform onboard a ship the cruise line takes care of all of our flights and the transportation of our equipment to the ship. A semi comes to our house and picks up all 8 of our road cases usually a week before we board the ship, and Kyle and I always feel a little bit nervous seeing our livelihood drive away, but that’s all part of the beauty of this industry. For a show that consists of many large-scale illusions, close up routines using video cameras and projectors, several set pieces and 14 costume  changes, we have to start preparing for the show as  soon  as  we arrive at the venue. If possible we do an orientation of the equipment with the  stage techs so  that they can understand  what each illusion is, how to handle it  and so on. As soon as possible we set a t  time to design the lighting which can take anywhere from 4 hours to 12 hours  depending on the ability of  the light tech and the theater. We have a significant amount of equipment so late at night after the theater is clear we start setting it up in the wings to give us a head start for the rehearsal. In between shows the props are either stored in the wings or in the orchestra pit, and the other smaller pieces of equipment stay in the cases we have ready access to.

On the day of the show we get up around 9:00 AM (which is pretty early for an entertainer!), have a quick breakfast if we’re lucky, and get to our rehearsal an hour ahead of time so that we can finish setting up our equipment before the rehearsal. I am actively involved  in building all of the equipment, which leaves me no room to worry about a manicure. Kyle and I choose to set all of our stage props on our own, mostly because setting the props requires such detail that we have  found it is wise to rely on ourselves rather than others. He built most of the illusions himself, and he made it so that the entire show can be built without tools.  

We give detailed copies of the curtain, video, audio, and stage scripts to each of the techs which on Royal Caribbean, usually consists of a lighting tech, two spotlight operators, two stage technicians, a video tech, a rigging specialist and a stage manager. Each tech has a specific and sometimes crucial job, and learning the show just a few hours before show time is extremely stressful to say the least. Although our show is only 50 minutes, our first rehearsal usually lasts about 4 hours because we have to go through each routine several times for everyone to be comfortable with it. Because we have a larger show and the venue takes care of shipping our equipment, we usually stay at one theater for several months to a year, and that makes it much easier on all of us involved in the show. After the rehearsal we reset all the equipment, make sure all of the dozens of presets are ready to go, which usually takes another hour or so. If there are any repairs to be made to the props Kyle handles it himself because he’s a jack of all trades, but I’m lending a helping hand the entire time. I have 14 costume changes, so I spend another half-hour steaming and  presetting my costumes,  jewelry and shoes. Most of my costume changes are 30 seconds or less so I have everything set up backstage in an assembly line of sorts. By this time Kyle and I are starving so we grab a light lunch and start getting ready for the show. After showering and drying my hair I usually spend about 45 minutes doing my stage makeup, which is way more than I would ever wear on the street! 

Showtime is at 7:00 PM and I try to get backstage at least an hour before the show. I double check all my presets, usually finding that something has been moved or needs finishing touches. I spend most of that time before a show stretching every part of my body. Because of the choreography and the illusions, there is no way I could do the show without being flexible. And contrary to popular belief I am NOT a contortionist and I do not need to be one! Lay people are so funny, they always think that’s the answer to everything. I’m dressed in full costume at 15 minutes to show time and in position at 2 minutes till. Right before the curtain opens I pinch Kyle’s butt for good luck – it’s tradition!

“Opening Night” is nerve wracking for everyone  involved because mistakes are inevitable, and ironically  it’s usually when most of the ship’s staff come to see the  show. In the cruise ship industry there aren’t any  second chances either. Even though Kyle and I are perfectionists there are so many other people and technical aspects involved, so Murphy’s Law sometimes  proves itself live onstage in front of an audience. No matter how many times I perform my heart still races when I hear the opening music. I love performing, and when you’ve got an energetic crowd it’s the best feeling in the world. The hour during the show are somewhat of a blur – between the costumes, the choreography,  the illusions, and running on and off stage in the dark – it’s an exhausting workout. During the show backstage is my domain and if anything at all goes wrong it’s my responsibility to fix the problem. Many times I’ve had to make a crucial decision and put it into action, all while Kyle is onstage completely clueless of the chaos going on backstage. Although it scares the hell out of me at the time, I’ve done this enough that I usually make the right decision and the audience is none the wiser of anything unplanned.

By the time we get to the last illusion I’m dripping with sweat and covered in bruises, but when I see the audience give us a standing ovation in a 1000 seat theater it’s all worthwhile. I can relax for now, but not for too long since we have to reset the show and do it all over again for second seating at 9:30 PM. 

By the we’ve finished the second show and torn down all the equipment it’s 11:00 PM and we are both starving – we missed dinner of course – so we order room service and spend the next couple hours winding down. It’s funny though, we never can get to sleep after a show, Kyle and I are constantly replaying it in our heads. I’m already sore from tonight’s shows and I know I’ll feel it even more tomorrow, but that’s okay because we’re going to be in the Bahamas and I can get a $20 massage on the beach. My work-week is over until next week’s show. I love my job!!!