Folks, drop everything and make plans to catch a behind the scenes look at the Broadway smash musical WICKED, which takes place every Saturday morning at the show’s home in the Gershwin Theatre. You ask me why, well, here goes...
Ok, so this past Saturday morning, I walked from my hotel up to West 51 Street to the Gershwin Theatre at 10:00 am to find out what happens behind the scenes at WICKED and boy, must say, I was thoroughly impressed with their behind the scenes presentation, aptly named BEHIND THE EMERALD CURTAIN. Basically, it’s everything you wanted to know aboutWICKED and you even get the opportunity to ask questions of the cast members who guide you through the morning.
This informative and engaging presentation has something for all ages and you get to see what goes into making this show happen eight times a week. When I say it’s a lot of work and caring that goes into the show, that’s an understatement.
I recently did an interview with one of the people behind BEHIND THE EMERALD CURTAIN, actor Sean McCourt, one of the original cast members of WICKED to get some background on him and the genesis of this event.
TJ: OK, now you are involved with a pre-show presentation of WICKED called BEHIND THE EMERALD CURTAIN. Sounds kind of mysterious? Tell me more about the evolution of how this unusual showing came to fruition and what was your involvement in the whole thing.
MCCOURT: Anthony Galde and I went to our producers last year to suggest a behind the scenes tour of Wicked which we could open to the public. Marc Platt (one of our producers) asked, “Has anyone done this before?” We said “no” and he said “Then I want to do it.”
From there, Anthony and I designed and built a Wicked museum which includes behind the scenes photos, costumes, masks, props, microphones, props cut from the San Fransisco production, and an amazing set model which was refurbished for us by Eugene Lee (Tony Award Winning set designer for Wicked).
We also editted a behind the scenes video which includes interviews with the creators, designers and producers. From there, we put together a 90 minute tour which deals with how Broadway shows work from development to previews to a long run. We deal with every aspect of the production and then open the floor for questions. You don’t need to see Wicked to enjoy the tour. Behind the Emerald Curtain is for anyone who loves Broadway.
TJ: And how long has this been going on?
MCCOURT: We have been running for nearly five months.
TJ: Have you had a lot of interest from the public in this presentation?
MCCOURT: We have had a great deal of interest. We average about 150 people each Saturday. Some days, the number is so large we have to do two tours.
TJ: From memory, what was the most interesting question asked of you during the BEHIND THE EMERALD CURTAIN presentation?
MCCOURT: I enjoy the technical questions. I am fascinated by how a big show works. I have spent a lot of time learning about rigging and set design for this tour. I have also learned about the Business of Broadway. I meet a lot of financial professionals who are very interested in how all the money flows. Whenever people ask questions which I can’t answer, I find the answer that day so I can answer it in the future. It is a terrific learning opportunity for me.
TJ: How long does the presentation of BEHIND THE EMERALD CURTAIN last?
MCCOURT: The whole tour lasts 90 minutes. That includes the museum tour, the auditorium tour, the film and the Q+A. We always stay around for an extra 20 minutes or so to sign posters and take photos as well. I enjoy meeting the audience.
TJ: Sean, what was your first Broadway show and what was it like for you personally that moment you were told that you had been cast?
MCCOURT: I was cast in Titanic on May 15. I still celebrate the anniversary all these years later. The first thing I did was call my mom crying from a pay phone on 45th Street. Of course the moment she picked up the phone an ambulance went by. So she thought I had been horribly hurt or something. It took several moments to convince her that I was actually happy. I also remember that I was wearing my favorite green sport coat. I remember that because I cried and snotted so much that I pretty much ruined it.
TJ: How many performances of WICKED have you done to date?
MCCOURT: Including San Francisco, I have done about 1100 performances of Wicked. As far as I know, I have done more performances of Wicked than anyone else. I should check the veracity of that claim before you put it on Oprah, however.
TJ: After so many performances of doing the same show day in and day out, how do you keep it fresh and exciting for yourself as a performer?
MCCOURT: No two shows are ever the same. That is physically impossible. If you throw yourself wholeheartedly into every show, the job is never boring. I once heard it said that wholeheartedness is the antidote for exhaustion. People who get bored are not paying attention.
TJ: Now, I read somewhere that you are in addition to being a performer, you are also an excellent instrumentalist. What instruments do you play and have you had the opportunity to use this skill in your current profession?
MCCOURT: I started out as a bass player in touring bands in Michigan. When I got to New York, I found a lot of shows looking for actors who would also play instruments. I learned to play a whole bunch of instruments over the years in order to keep working as an actor. Eventually, however, I decided I wanted to focus on acting without guitars, so I had to put that part of my life away for awhile.
TJ: Did you come from a musical family?
MCCOURT: Yes. All three of my brothers are musicians.
TJ: Did you ever see yourself doing something other than theatre?
MCCOURT: Sure. Any ideas?
TJ: Do you ever find yourself getting caught up in the moment when meeting or working with people that you may have idolized before you got involved with theatre?
MCCOURT: There is a certain cool remove which can often be difficult to maintain. I’ll leave it at that, just in case one of those people read this.
TJ: I understand that you are not only an actor-singer but you have also tried your hand at writing a musical. What can you tell me about Ten Years Apart?
MCCOURT: Ten Years Apart is a musical I co-wrote with Matthew Bennett. It was produced at Cincinnatti Playhouse and at the Ordway in Minneapolis. My other show, Last Romeo, had a brief run Off Broadway at the Melting Pot.
TJ: Any other projects for us to keep an eye out on for Sean McCourt?
TJ: And now, again, I come to the part of the interview where we find out a little more about Sean McCourt called MY FAVORITE THINGS. Here we go...
FAVORITE CITY South Orange, New Jersey (that’s where I live)
FAVORITE FOOD Cheese
FAVORITE MOVIE Avalon
FAVORITE PASTTIME ACTIVITY Being a Dad.
YOUR MOST FAVORITE THING IN THE WORLD My kids