Wicked: Back Stage Where All Sorts of Things Are Flying About

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An enormous dragon hung over the front of the Hobby Center's stage yesterday -- it took 10 hours of work to reassemble it and place it there on Monday.

Below, workers were stringing cable, putting hardware and software into its final places, all prior to bringing in the special floor for Wicked, opening Wednesday night and brought here by Broadway Across America.

Peter Van Dyke, Wicked's stage manager, just got in from Dallas where Wicked played for several weeks. The dragon there, identical to the one hauled to Houston, went on to Columbus, Ohio to wait for the next stop on tour there. "It makes it go faster," Van Dyke explained. This one has been sitting in a crate for five weeks, waiting its turn, he said.

The dragon is built on the stage and then, using chains from the roof, is winched up into place, Van Dyke said. "It's the same hardware that Phantom [of the Opera] used," he said.

After the dragon is flown up into the air, the soft fabric drops are put into place, which means they too are hung from the ceiling. It looks like props are resting on the floor, but actually they aren't, Van Dyke said.

"Everything is hanging in the air. It's brought down to meet the floor," he said. The last part brought in is the floor itself that has electrical equipment and sound equipment built into it, he said.

Van Dyke said they love working at the Hobby Center, calling its stage "one of the best in the country." He had much less fond memories of its predecessor, the Music Hall, which he termed "notoriously bad" and "even in its time, difficult to work with."

Asked if Elphaba, the green witch, will fly out over the audience, Van Dyke said no. "We never fly out over the audience. She flies over the stage. She's not Mary Poppins."

To date, Van Dyke said, Wicked seems to be recession-proof as it continues to play to sold-out theater crowds across the country. In Houston, right now the best chance to find a seat will be on July 4 and through the ticket lottery before each performance for orchestra seats, he said.

Wicked runs June 30 through July 25 at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby Street. Tickets can be purchased at BroadwayAcross America.com, Ticketmaster.com/wicked or by calling 1.800.745.3000.

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