Dancer to Dancer

Let's Take This Show on the Road: How "Phantom" Goes on Tour

The Phantom cast in "Masquerade" (photo by Alastair Muir, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

The North American tour production of The Phantom of the Opera is massive, with a large cast and a fabulously elaborate set (including that famous chandelier). How do all those moving parts get from city to city, giving audiences across the country the same spectacular show? Unsurprisingly, cast and crew alike have their travel routines down to exact sciences. We talked to Emily Ramirez, a former professional ballet dancer who stars as Meg Giry, and to production stage manager Heather Chockley about how Phantom hits the road.


A crew member adjusts the famous chandelier (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

When your show includes a one-ton chandelier, a huge revolving wall, double-height opera boxes, 100 moving lights, and almost 100 wireless microphones, preparation for each stop on the tour has to begin well in advance. "About a year out, our production guys will go to each prospective theater and get every possible measurement," Chockley says. "Then we'll drop our show map onto their theater map, and troubleshoot sticking points." Large theaters, like the Kennedy Center in DC or the Hobby Center in Houston, don't require many adjustments. But in smaller locations, significant changes might have to be made to accommodate the complicated production. "For one theater in South Bend, IN, we had to add a big structural steel beam over the audience to hang the chandelier from," Chockley says.

The chandelier in its cover (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

"The chandelier is its own beast," Chockley says. "It fills the whole width of its truck, and has its own traveling cart. We usually have to build some portable decking over the seats to roll it out, and we'll have previously installed some motors in the ceiling to pick it up. Then, there's all kinds of safety testing that happens based on the height it'll travel in the theater."

Ramirez as Meg Giry (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

For the cast, traveling looks a little different every time. "There's always a company travel option—a flight, or a bus, arranged by the show," Ramirez says. "But you don't have to take it, and a lot of people do their own thing. You might be able to take a buyout for the price of the flight and book a ticket home for a day or two, for example. I tend to switch it up."

The corps de ballet in "Hannibal" (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

Because Phantom's set covers the entire stage, including the floor, the dancers don't have to worry much about variations in stage dimensions or floor surfaces. Backstage, however, is a different story. "We might get lucky and have a full mirrored, marleyed studio to warm up in," Ramirez says. "Or we might be warming up in a triangle-shaped storage closet with carpet on the floor!"

Dancer Daniela Filippone warming up (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

Staying in shape on the road poses a special challenge for the show's dancers. "If I know I'm going to be stuck on a plane or bus for a while, I'll do little things to keep the juices flowing," Ramirez says. "In the airport, I never get on the people mover or take the escalator; I'll always walk. If I have a long layover, I'll walk the entire airport!" Once in her hotel room or Airbnb, she'll do some kind of workout that involves her own body weight—Pilates, yoga, or TRX. And she counts her humidifier, collection of essential oils, probiotic supplements, and neti pot among her travel must-haves. "Just keeping yourself healthy on the road is a full-time job," she says.

Tutus backstage, ready for the dancers' quick change (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

To transport sets and costumes, the show uses 20 semi-trailer trucks. All of the show's scenery breaks down into "manageable, or at least truck-sized, pieces," Chockley says. Most costumes travel in big rolling closets with hard shells, which the crew calls "gondolas."

Ramierez prepares for "Masquerade" during intermission (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

Despite the complexity of the show, load-in and load-out happen quickly—feats made possible by the intensive advanced planning. "Standard load-in is three days, with a show the evening of the third day," Chockley says. "Then we'll have about 15 hours to get everything out afterward. It's always easier to take a puzzle apart."

Ramierez and the corps onstage (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

The cast has relatively little prep time before the first performance in a new theater. "Usually we'll be called in at 5 pm, and we'll run different pieces from a couple numbers and then one number in its entirety," Ramirez says. "But that's not really for us; it's for the sound people, to get their levels right in the space." At 8 pm that same day, they perform their first show. "Unless we're putting in a new person, we don't have other rehearsals built into the schedule," Ramirez says. "We might go a month or two without rehearsal. But when you're performing eight times a week, you know what you're doing."

Dance Captain Lily Rose Peck repairing her shoes (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Broadway Booking Office)

Despite the sometimes less-than-glamorous daily realities, Ramirez finds touring life deeply fulfilling. "This show has such an incredible reputation and history," she says. "There are a lot of variables when you're on the road, but no matter how I'm feeling or what kind of warm-up I just had or what my flight was like, the thing that's always consistent is that I want the audience to have an amazing experience. That's what keeps me grounded."


A version of this story appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Let's Take This Show on The Road."

Show Comments ()
Dance News
2018 graduate Meredith Santoro in a shot from the PURCHASE DANCE x SUPREME series (screenshot via @issadancelook on Instagram)

Our story begins on January 3, 2018, when an account called @issadancelook suddenly appeared on the Insta-horizon. Almost immediately, the page was chock-full of artsy shots of SUNY Purchase dancers in their quirkiest, most stylish classwear and rehearsalwear. Barely half a year later, the page has an intensely engaged base of followers, and even mainstream fashion has taken notice—but more on that in a minute.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Lucky you! You get to spend a week full of dancing with amazing choreographers, teachers and dancers! As exhilarating as this is, you need to know how to get the most out of your camp experience in order to create those memories that last a lifetime.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Fashion
Photo by Erin Baiano

Throwback jazz duds that feel impossibly current? Groovy, baby.

Modeled by Amber Pickens and Carey Segal

Photography by Erin Baiano

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Once competition season has ended, it can seem like forever until you're ready to compete again. Don't let the down time between competition seasons drag on. Dance conventions are an easy and fun way to learn new skills, meet inspiring choreographers, and stay involved in dance all year long. Showstopper's Dance Conventions offer dancers an experience you cannot get anywhere else. Here is why you cannot miss Showstopper Dance Conventions!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Nathan Sayers

Few things are more beautiful than perfectly arched feet. While us normal humans are on a never-ending quest to make our biscuits look a little bit better, some dancers are just born with gorgeous bananas. Here are 9 artists—from big-name icons to up-and-coming talents—whose feet are all kinds of #goals.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
Screenshot via Vogue

Dancer and choreographer Sherrie Silver is living her best life. The 23 year old, who's most recent choreography was featured in Childish Gambino's controversial "This Is America" music video, continues to bring African dance to the forefront of pop culture with the help of Vogue magazine. Brooklyn is the perfect backdrop for this dancing queen as she breaks down five of her favorite Afro dance moves: the Gwara Gwara, the Hipjook, the Neza, the Snakula, and the Shaku Shaku.

Keep reading... Show less
Dear Katie
Photo by Travis Kelley, courtesy Kathryn Morgan

In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

I'm a lefty turner, and am more flexible on my left side than my right. My one-sidedness is especially noticeable because most people in my classes are stronger on the right side. How can I even myself out?

Camryn

Keep reading... Show less
Editors’ List: The Goods
Via @joandjax on Instagram

Summertime...and the dressing is eeeeeeeeeeasy. When you're heading straight from the dance studio to the pool or beach, you don't want to be messing around with complicated cover-ups. That's where these 5 MVPs of the romper room come in, bringing their breezy style to your pre-class, post-rehearsal, and everything-in-between looks. Oh, and three out of the five are on sale right now. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and romper-ound! (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

The Soline, by Wear Moi

Via wearmoi.us

This oversized cap sleeve romper with a half zip in the front features four-way stretch and extra-comfy wide leg openings. You can get it now on Wear Moi's US website for less than half of its original price.

Just for Fun
#6: We're never NOT stretching. (Giphy)

Dancers are truly a special breed. And that means some of the stuff we do every day—stuff that seems totally normal to us—completely weirds out our non-dance friends. Here are 10 funny dancer habits we're guessing you can totally relate to.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
2018 graduate Meredith Santoro in a shot from the PURCHASE DANCE x SUPREME series (screenshot via @issadancelook on Instagram)

Our story begins on January 3, 2018, when an account called @issadancelook suddenly appeared on the Insta-horizon. Almost immediately, the page was chock-full of artsy shots of SUNY Purchase dancers in their quirkiest, most stylish classwear and rehearsalwear. Barely half a year later, the page has an intensely engaged base of followers, and even mainstream fashion has taken notice—but more on that in a minute.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Nathan Sayers

Few things are more beautiful than perfectly arched feet. While us normal humans are on a never-ending quest to make our biscuits look a little bit better, some dancers are just born with gorgeous bananas. Here are 9 artists—from big-name icons to up-and-coming talents—whose feet are all kinds of #goals.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Quad Squad performing their routine on the "WOD" stage (screenshot via YouTube)

Last night's episode of "World of Dance" proves that there's literally an endless supply of talented dancers in this world. We're on week SEVEN of Qualifiers, and each week, we're continuously blown away by the competitors. Last night was no different, as eight more groups (all of whom deserved to advance) vied for a spot in the Duels.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
The cast of All Styles (courtesy Shout Factory)

What do you get when dance all-stars like Fik-Shun Stegall, Heather Morris, and Christopher Scott join forces for a movie? That'd be All Styles, the new dance film that just might give Step Up a run for its money. And you can watch the trailer exclusively right here.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
USC Kaufman Students in Class (courtesy Glorya Kaufman School of Dance At University of Southern California)

You can still dance at a high level while attending a school that has no dance department. Just ask these two recent grads—their post-college careers bloomed because they took charge of their dance education.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
"My comeback on 💯" (via YouTube)

We've always been impressed by Ciara's very legit dance skills. But for "Level Up," the first single she's released since 2015, the star decided to create a dance vid that is actually on another level.

How'd she do it? By recruiting choreographer extraordinaire Parris Goebel and her epic ReQuest Dance Crew. We knew "Level Up" was a banger from the second we first heard it, but by their powers combined, Ciara, Goebel, and the ReQuest dancers make it into an absolutely irresistible dance jam.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Photo by Sophie Elgort, courtesy Isabella Boylston

Last year, American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston decided to bring world-renowned ballet to her hometown of Sun Valley, ID. The first three-day Ballet Sun Valley festival featured stars including Maria Kochetkova and Misty Copeland, performing solos, pas de deux, and a world premiere by Gemma Bond. Audiences raved so much that the festival will continue this year, July 17 and 18. The talent list has expanded: There'll be 25 dancers from companies including the Paris Opéra Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and New York City Ballet, and the festival will again offer a day of free dance classes for local students. Dance Spirit caught up with Boylston to get all the details—and to find out what starting a ballet festival is really like.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Giveaways