There are some scenes in musicals that are just a bad idea. There are some whole shows that are just a bad idea, but that is a topic for another day. There is one Christmas musical called Miracle on 34th Street aka Here’s Love. They changed the title when they figured out that no one wanted to see a Christmas show called Here’s Love.
The show is… interesting. I will grant you that it does have Christmas cheer. And the audiences do love it. But from the actor’s point of view, the show makes your neck do horrible squirmy things at the mere thought of living through Meredith Wilson’s second worst show. It is a miracle to survive Miracle each night. And it’s all because of the parade.
The show like the movie begins with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s an amazing spectacle on stage with children, clowns, stilts, Rockettes, floats, and a marching band. And all of this is done with about sixteen actors. This means smiling while you dance across stage, running into the crossover while stripping, flinging yourself into the open arms of your dresser, swearing for twenty seconds as you desperately try to finish your quick change in time to get back on stage to repeat the entire process. It’s six minutes with four quick changes. We in the theatre also like to call this Hell.
And when you’re running for your changes backstage, it’s not always neat and organized. Oh no, there are costumes flying in your face, children falling at your feet, and the scent of impending doom in the air.
It took us until opening night to get everyone on stage fully clothed for the first time. Until then we were a rag tag band missing hats and pants. But we did manage it… until the sad tale of the tub.
Besides the parade from Hell, Miracle also has a toy dream sequence (woot woot). Meredith Wilson didn’t want sugar plums dancing in your head. He wanted three men in a tub. And a horse. The man clearly had no idea of how to write for theatres with limited wing space.
The tub had to be stored in the crossover, and one fateful day as the Rockettes were running off stage, one of the demon children in a clown suit knocked over the tub! There it was, blocking the hall and our only way to our twenty second quick change. The first Rockette screamed, “Tub!” as she hurdled the hula-hoop framed obstacle. I followed her lead, and as Ieaped over the tub like a cow jumping the moon, I too screamed, “Tub!” The shout carried down the line of hurdling half-naked Rockettes. And somehow, by the grace of the theatre gods, we all managed to get back on stage in our marching band costumes in time.
But the fear of obstacles remained. The first six minutes of that show sent me into a cold sweat. And this year, I will be repeating the joy of the Miracle Parade (woot woot). Cross your fingers for a big crossover and no renegade tubs.