A Little Bit of Pixie Dust

Celebrating a year of magic at Inside Broadway

Volume 116, No. 7July, 2016

Bettina Covo

“All you need is faith, and trust, and a little bit of pixie dust”
-J.M. Barrie, “Peter Pan”

This was indeed a magical year for over 8,000 lucky public schoolchildren who attended the Creating the Magic events presented by Inside Broadway. Each of the three different productions provided the students with an exclusive look at the inner workings of a Broadway show: “Finding Neverland” (at the Lunt-Fontanne), “Wicked” (at the Gershwin) and “Les Misérables” (at the Imperial). Michael Presser, executive director of Inside Broadway, presided over the events, where he introduced the various presenters and performers and asked a few brief questions about their backgrounds. As always, each presentation was interesting, informative and entertaining.

The December presentation treated the students to the magic of “Finding Neverland,” the charming new musical based on the movie of the same title that chronicles the life of J. M. Barrie and his creation, “Peter Pan.” Local 802 member Julie McBride was the solo musician in the pit, alternating between piano and accordion. Tom Olcott, Local 802’s financial vice president, addressed the audience and spoke eloquently about the marvels and spontaneity of live theatre.

Ric Molina shows visiting NYC public school children the mysteries of the orchestra pit at "Wicked." Photo: Elena Olivo

Ric Molina shows visiting NYC public school children the mysteries of the orchestra pit at “Wicked.” Photo: Elena Olivo

In March, we were off to see the wizard in a repeat visit to the cast and crew of “Wicked.” The first presentation was so successful that the show’s producers invited Creating the Magic back for a second opportunity to look at the “man behind the curtain.” Conductor Ric Molina, pianist Paul Masse, drummer Dan Berkery, bassist Michael Blanco and percussionist Andy Jones were on hand to accompany the actors in some of the classic numbers from the show. Jones himself was invited on stage to talk to the students about his unique role as percussionist. He explained that, for logistical reasons, he performs the show from his own room, which is sequestered off stage. There just isn’t enough room in the pit for the 59 percussion instruments he has to play nightly. From his private lair, he not only performs with the orchestra but also provides many of the unique sound effects required in the show. The students were fascinated by the different effects Jones demonstrated, ranging from bells and whistles to the sound of water, all of which must be perfectly synchronized with the action on stage.

Then, we traveled to 19th century France for “Les Misérables” in June. Tom Olcott was back, and he briefly spoke to the students about Local 802 and the importance of unions in the entertainment industry. In keeping with the operatic feel of “Les Mis,” two strings players were featured: violinist Maria Conti and cellist Laura Bontrager. Filling out the group were keyboardist Brian Hertz and conductor Danny Percefull, who spoke to the audience about the role of the orchestra in a musical.

A consistently striking feature of these presentations is that, just like any Broadway show, the Creating the Magic events rely on the cooperation of many different people in order to produce a seamless show. This is a team effort that requires a great deal of planning and coordination. Thanks should go out to everyone involved – particularly to the Local 802 musicians and to Michael Presser, Nick Sala and the staff of Inside Broadway. Here’s to more magic and “a little bit of pixie dust”!