Mr R. Lopez sits on a small wall which surrounds steps leading to exit doors for the Jacobs stage and auditorium. The nearest open one to him contains a stick-on vinyl with half of Matt Murphy’s promotional photo of Almost Famous The Musical’s opening number ‘1973’ printed on. The lead Casey Like’s head has been ripped off the door. “That tends to happen after closing,” comments Mr Lopez as we strike up conversation about it. He’s non-plussed, like me he knows those stick-ons are otherwise destined for the trash or (hopefully) recycling.
If you’ve visited the Jacobs to watch Almost Famous, which played its last Broadway performance the afternoon before, chances are you’ve met Mr Lopez, just in a slightly different capacity to his job today. On show days he’s one of the first points of contact for ticket holders going through front of house security. He will greet you with one those standard catchphrases now heard at every house be it New York or London, “Have your bags open and ready for inspection,” is one, “One at a time through the metal detectors please,” another. If you hang around after a performance – as so often fans do – you’ll also have seen him making sure the performers and staff are safe whilst leaving the house. As part of the security team he tells me his job is simply to ensure every person who’s made the effort to attend a Broadway show has a safe and pleasant night out.
Today however he’s looking after the loading out of the show. Every prop, piece of technical equipment, costume and set will be dismantled and removed from the Jacobs over the coming days. He’s keeping those riggers and trades people safe as well as ensuring no one tries to run off with a flight case of LED video wall panels, or today, a giant wooden pallet containing Bonzo’s motorcycle that’s ridden around the corridors of the Riot House at the end of “Everybody’s Coming Together”.
As someone who loves theatre, I know this part of the process is a natural part of the cycle of a show. As someone who loves this show, it’s gut wrenching seeing the elusive San Diego Sports Arena backstage door that William must pass in order to start his adventure, leaning against the wall on the sidewalk waiting for it’s allotted loading time on to the truck to arrive. As I walk past, a panel is loaded in on a small fork lift; on one side of the panel is the inside of a Topeka Stillwater fans home, turn 180 and it forms the front of a rooftop that just 18 hours before had Russell Hammond standing atop screaming he was a Golden God whilst high on acid.
“They started late last night. It usually takes three days to load a show like this out. Then the house sits empty until the next one comes in. It happens every day here.” Whilst these sights are saddening to people like me and followers of this account, Mr Lopez’s view is entirely true and correct. This is just another day on Broadway. A show goes out and one comes in. The shows that leave go onto new life in tours and international productions of the show. Most of the set pieces I can see will go into storage until required again. Fixtures such as lights, speakers, microphones are returned to the rental companies they were hired from. These items will all see the light of day again, it’s a realisation that makes me feel a little more content.
I ask if I can take his photo. He’s an important part of this process. “It’s the sidewalk of New York sir, you have a constitutional and legal right to take a photo of anything on the sidewalk and look inside any open door.” Whilst his response shows how professional he is, after making sure that he, as a person, is comfortable with me taking his photo on top of any right I may have, I do my best Backstage Blonde impression and with his advice take photos and video of the activity. I’m comforted thinking of the song ‘Elaine’s Lecture’ as I do this, specifically the line, “As Goethe said, ‘Enjoy when you can, and endure what you must.’” It seems right at the end of a wonderful fun weekend that the show, in the form of Elaine, via Alice Crowe whom the character is based on, is guiding me through this moment of sadness.