Regular Proctors patrons will see it, and “Phantom” fans will understand. As they look for their seats in the 88-year-old Schenectady landmark they can’t help but look up and notice that something is different about the ceiling.
The prop, one of the most famous in Broadway history, is the large chandelier that wraps up the conclusion of Act 1 in “The Phantom of the Opera” when it “crashes” to the stage. The show is running at Proctors through Sunday, June 8.
“When we do it right we get screams,” said stage manager Heather Chockley, who along with cast members Brad Oscar and Edward Staudenmayer talked about the chandelier at a noontime news conference Thursday at Proctors. “It’s pretty amazing. We drop it but it
doesn’t actually break. By the beginning of Act II it’s back up there on the ceiling.”
Proctors is transformed into a 19th century Paris opera house for “Phantom,” the brainchild of Andrew Lloyd Webber and the longest-running Broadway show in history. The chandelier is part of the traveling national tour and is much bigger than the central chandelier already up on the Proctors ceiling along with six smaller fixtures.
“The audience gets to see the inner workings of this opera house, from all the dark corridors you can go down to the fly loft above the stage,” said Chockley, who served as stage manager for the touring production of “Les Miserables” last spring in Schenectady. “Proctors is an amazing theater, and this production is spectacular.”
The chandelier weighs about a ton and has 6,000 beads in it. According to Oscar, who plays one of the theater’s owners, Monsieur Firmin, the chandelier has helped make this “new” production of “Phantom” very special.
“It’s very special and it’s very scary, and in our production, without giving away too much, when the chandelier drops it’s a much more exciting, physical moment,” said Firmin. “We have a new and improved chandelier. The show had been defined by the chandelier in so many ways, and it’s obviously worked well, the show’s still going strong, but the technology has changed so much in almost 30 years that our chandelier does a lot more than the original chandelier.”
Staudenmayer, who plays Monsieur Andre, the other owner of the opera house, said the chandelier “crash” is a great way to end Act 1.
“There are a lot of bells and whistles on this chandelier that weren’t on the original,” he said. “I guess they wanted to use some new technology, so it is pretty scary when it falls. Of course, we have the illusion of it crashing. It actually goes back up there and is ready to go again at the beginning of Act II.”
Members of the press also got to go backstage at Thursday’s event and check out some of the wardrobe, including the dress worn by the key female character, Christine, played by Julie Udine.
“Julie’s dress weighs about 20 pounds and cost $10,000 to make,” said Chockley. “We have three full-time wardrobe people that travel with the show, and there is no eating or smoking backstage. That’s the way it is for all shows, but we’re pretty picky about that with this show.”
The show also has a pit band of five musicians who travel with the show. They are joined by 10 local musicians for each performance, but that’s only part of the local contribution.
“The local musicians we get here are great,” said Chockley. “We get a lot of help from people locally. We have 38 cast members and 22 crew members, but we also have Proctors’ stagehands and they’re fantastic, and we also use a lot of cleaning people. If something in the wardrobe is worn, it gets washed before the next performance.”