by Jeff Loeb, Associate General Manager
“The tree won’t fit.” That’s the text message I received from our Technical Director (TD) during the load-in of DIRTY DANCING. I called him to discover that the 30 foot tree in the show, the one where Baby learns how to balance, won’t fit down the stage door ramp and make the turn onto the stage. The stage door is only 8 feet wide and it needs to be about 1 foot wider. Well that wasn’t going to happen today.
There have been a few shows that had set pieces either so large or heavy that we had difficulty getting them down the stage door ramp. There was PHANTOM with the 10,000 truss system or HAIRSPRAY with the neon set piece that caused a tow truck to tilt back on to the two back wheels. But even though they were large or heavy (or both) we somehow managed to get them all in the building. That is until the 30 foot tree showed up. We have never have we had a 30 foot long set piece and certainly one that didn’t break into sections. This was one solid tree and it wasn’t going in the building.
The next text I received from our TD: “Traffic stopped. The tree is on Hollywood Blvd”.
Why is it on Hollywood Blvd? The stage door is on Argyle. What are they up to? Come to learn that the crew made an executive decision and a good one at that. Since the tree was only 3 feet in diameter they decided to wheel the tree down on to Hollywood Blvd and try to bring it in through front doors of the theatre. Width wasn’t a problem. Length was.
Once the tree was in front of the theatre they spun it around so it aimed north directly at our front doors and blocked Hollywood Blvd completely. Traffic was held at a standstill for only a few minutes and the tree was slowly brought up over the curb and angled in through the front doors. It was a straight shot through the lobby and down one of the two center aisles. A slight issue was lifting the tree up on to the stage but once at the lip of the stage there were chain motors to help. And our crew is a total Home Improvement gang and loves using anything motorized.
It worked. Other than the traffic interruption the tree made it in and for every performance the tree would very slowly lower on to stage coming to rest on the stage floor so Baby could learn to dance in the woods.
At the conclusion of the run, the DIRTY DANCING set was dismantled. On that final day of strike, I asked if we might have a memento of the show. On Monday when I walked into my office there was a 6 foot section of the tree sitting where me desk chair used to be. I had to laugh because all I could think was “I bet the tree fit through the door this time.”