Careful chaos and 180 wigs to make this show Beautiful
STEP back behind the curtain of any theatre production and you’ll find a tightly orchestrated world of organised chaos.
For Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, with a cast of 24 performers and a crew of 80, the choreography of behind-the-scenes action comes down to the second.
While sound and light play out on stage, a few steps either side another performance is taking place where those whose job is onstage and those whose tasks are off it, each hold their place while being conscious of not blocking another’s.
Stage crews dart about managing timings and cues, sound and lighting. Cast members await their entrance or get last minute makeup touch ups, props move into place and the next set change is prepped.
As company manager Dawn Martin says, backstage is a world onto itself.
Arguably one of the craziest places is the wardrobe department, where 1300 individual pieces, including lead star Esther Hannaford’s dress from the Carnegie Hall scene, made from nine meters of fabric, are organised.
There are 170 pairs of shoes and 180 wigs recreating the 1950s through to the early 1970s. Think from beehives and high pigtails to afros and long, flowing hair.
It’s where near-impossible costume changes take place — in one instance a complete top to toe transition in just 27 seconds.
“There’s no room for error. It’s fun but it makes for quite a crazy environment,” deputy head of wardrobe Lucetta Stapleton says, likening backstage to the mechanism of a clock — if one person is out of synch, everyone is. “It’s a team effort, wigs, wardrobe and the cast, it depends on everyone doing their bit at the right time.
“Little things like a shoelace break can definitely get the heart rate up a bit!” BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL OPENS AT THE SYDNEY LYRIC THEATRE TONIGHT, TICKETS AT SYDNEYLYRIC. COM. AU.
Some of Beautiful’s 180 wigs are prepared for
Esther Hannaford, who plays Carole King. All pictures: Sam Ruttyn
Mike McLeish, playing music mogul Don
The show requires 170 pairs of shoes.