Photos by Kate Penn
Launching a new tour in a venue like Proctors makes sense for Disney Theatrical, says Jack Eldon, the organization’s vice president of Domestic Touring and Regional Engagements.
In 2014, Disney Theatrical used Proctors for technical rehearsals of Newsies, and this season the company is launching Frozen on State Street. Following its two-week run in the Capital Region (Nov. 10-24), it will open officially with a two-month run at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles (Dec. 4-Feb. 2).
“First of all,” Eldon continues, “the staff and crew at Proctors are terrific partners while working on a new project like adapting a Broadway hit for the road. Secondly, the audiences are welcoming and appreciative of touring Broadway, and especially of our Disney Theatrical shows; we receive a very warm response from the audience at Proctors. Lastly, the proximity to New York City has proven to be an asset; for example, if there’s a last-minute need for something technical, or it’s time for the creative team or our management staff to come to Schenectady to see the production onstage, it’s merely a three-hour ride from New York.”
Once the tech is in full motion, about 150 non-locals “inclusive of cast, crew, creative team, etc.,” will be staying in the Electric City, says Frozen Technical Supervisor Ben Heller
“There are two very fundamental differences. On Broadway, we continue to refine and finesse the crew tracks and moves throughout a preview period until opening night. A tour will get reviewed by the press two shows into its run in a new city, giving us less time to develop the fine tuning with each crew. Secondly, we only have one theatre for which we have to evaluate sightlines on Broadway. On a tour, we need to consider sightlines of every venue we are ever going to play and make sure our staging works for all of them.”
Frozen’s extensive special effects present their own challenges. “We have to ensure the effects are big enough to be seen by everyone in all the theatres the tour will play—many of which are larger than our New York home, the St. James Theatre,” Heller says. “Also, air conditioning and its effect on fog is a new game every time we go to another venue.”
The road also offers a chance to reinterpret a show somewhat. Coincidentally, when a new property has its Broadway opening, the script, to use a show business term of art, is “frozen.” When it readies for the road, there is opportunity for tweaks. “We try to use the opportunity to revisit the script, score and design to see if changes could be made or technologies could be updated,” Eldon says.
The producer and creative team of Newsies made modifications to the production when they launched the tour at Proctors in 2014. That included adding a new song and obvious modifications to the physical production of the show for touring.
A theatre in tech looks something like a small city, with workstations mounted throughout the auditorium and the stage resembling a hive abuzz with activity virtually from dawn til dark on the busiest days.
“There will be between 30 and 40 tech tables,” Heller notes. “We have computers that run sound, lighting, automation and the like—and there will be upwards of 80 computers on the tech tables.”
Part of each tech also involves planning how to move the show. The show will travel in 16 tractor trailers (53 feet each) and use 3 tractor trailers for the advance. The advance occurs in the next city on the route while the show plays Friday, Saturday and Sunday in its current city. After the final performance, the show-to-show trailers take the rest of the production to the next city.
And each of those cities will be thrilled to be Frozen.
“Shockingly,” Heller says, “we have a very small mass of snow—about two pounds per night. The design is more about ice than snow. We use over 170 liters of liquid carbon dioxide every night to cool the fog that covers the stage. That fog is cooled to around negative 100 degrees Fahrenheit.”
What is “Tech“?
“Tech,” is shorthand for a play or musical’s technical rehearsal period, in which the elements of a specific staging come together before performances begin. Set pieces and costumes are trucked in from warehouses and manufacturers; lighting rigs are flown above the stage and programmed; sound cues and microphone channels are prepared for each scene.
At Proctors, all of this hubbub begins as actors are still learning steps and new songs in a midtown New York rehearsal complex. Toward the end of the tech period, they travel to the host theatre and finally land on the boards, able to interact for the first time with the lights, sound and sets.
Frozen marks the eighth tech at Proctors, and perhaps the biggest yet. The show is a genuine spectacle, with wondrous special effects; a sumptuous, icy onstage Arundel; and a large cast.
Teching began at Proctors with Ghost the Musical in 2013 and has been a part of each season since.
Proctors Collaborative CEO Philip Morris was a key player in a 2014 “Keep Broadway in New York” initiative to bring techs to upstate New York, with a Coalition for an Empire State Live Production Tax Credit. The program illustrates that offering tax incentives to producers spurs an economic and artistic boon for the downtown theatre districts that dot the New York State Thruway from Schenectady to Buffalo.
For the Capital Region and the city of Schenectady, the tech process means an exclusive first view of new tours. It also places the Electric City on the broader Broadway map.
Techs and tour launches at Proctors:
2013: Ghost the Musical
2014: Disney’s Newsies
2015: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
2016: An American in Paris
2017: The Color Purple
2019: The SpongeBob Musical, Disney’s Frozen
Proctors is the only stop on the East Coast for the first phase of the 10-city North American tour of Disney’s Frozen. Here are the announced North American tour dates:
Schenectady Nov. 10-24
Los Angeles Dec. 4-Feb. 2
Seattle Feb. 7-March 1
Portland March 5-22
San Diego March 26-April 12
Salt Lake City April 15-May 3
Minneapolis May 6-31
Tulsa, OK June 3-14
Dallas June 17-July 12
Cleveland July 15-Aug. 16
For tickets at Proctors visit proctors.org