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Wicked: Art and Science on Stage

The musical Wicked has been running to packed houses on Broadway for ten years. The show is now doing the same thing at the Atria Theatre on its third visit to Richmond. The talent of theatre artists is on display at a very high level and so are science, technology, engineering and math.

The vision of the playwrite and set designers is realized using a variety of engineering skills and technologies. Sound and lighting are computerized. So is the tracked floor that moves set pieces, props, and scenery with mathematical precision.

At the Altria Theatre, the computers that control sound and lighting are in full view of the audience but the machinery that was designed to make things appear on stage and permit actors playing monkeys and witches to fly, while vital, is invisible.

In addition, with a traveling show like Wicked, before anything hits the stage, industrial engineers have designed the process of loading 14 tractor trailers to move the magic from city to city with startling efficiency. Just as the artists recreate the same show each night, every time a truck is loaded or unloaded, its done the same way. It takes two full eight-hour days and a few hours more to get everything in place and ready for the show. Before it finishes its Richmond run, three trucks will already be on their way not to the next destination, but the one after that.

88.9 WCVE News Correspondent John Ogle spent time with David O’Brien, the Production Stage Manager of Wicked, on load in day at the Altria Theatre.