Talking at the Bring It On Stage Door with Richard Nielsen

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richard_headshot_no_nameI love Broadway. If I was rich, I would spend a month in New York City and see all the Broadway and off-Broadway shows. While I can’t make my way to the Great White Way, it can come to me via touring shows. Without these touring shows I would be searching YouTube for poor quality pirated videos of the season’s current hits. When Bring It On The Musical crossed my path, there was no way I was going to miss the Tony nominee based off the greates cheerleadering movie. As I often due, I hung out by the stage door to hopefully meet actors and crew. This time I was rewarded with Richard Nielsen of Troika Entertainment. Richard is the stage manager for the Bring It On tour and I asked him some questions of tour life and his career.

Whitney Grace (WG): Please tell me a little bit about yourself and what led you to start a career in theater?

Richard (RN): When I was little, my parents took me to see shows at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh, PA. I loved everything from the Nutcracker to Fiddler on the Roof, but it was when I saw the first National tour of Phantom of the Opera that I knew I wanted to be a part of theatre the rest of my life.

WG: What are some of your favorite Broadway shows?

photo 1RN: This is such a hard question! As I said before, Phantom originally gave me the “theatre bug.” I was a HUGE Rent-head when was I was in high school and would play that soundtrack, along with the soundtracks of the revivals of Cabaret and Chicago ad nauseum. More recently, Bridges of Madison County and Once were truly exceptional and beautiful evenings of theatre.

WG: How did you get your current job as stage manager on the Bring It On tour and how long have you been doing it?

RN: My name had been passed along from previous jobs. For those jobs, I got my foot in the door by applying for anything and working in every aspect of theatre that was possible. We started rehearsals for Bring It On back in December 2013.

WG: What exactly does the stage manager do?

photo 4RN: This is a question that even my spouse can’t fully explain. A stage manager’s duties can change slightly depending on the production or where it is being performed. During rehearsals, we facilitate communication amongst the entire company, help to manage the schedule, record everything that happens during rehearsals, and try to make the rehearsal period as smooth as possible for everyone involved. Once the show opens, we give all of the technical and lighting cues that happen during performances, rehearse the understudies and swings, and maintain the artistic integrity of the show while still facilitating communication and schedules.

WG: While cheerleading and dancing have many similarities, what are some of their differences when presenting them for theater?

RN: I can only speak with a very limited experience in regard to cheerleading, but from my understanding, cheerleading usually prepares for one competition at a time whereas a Broadway show is expected to perform the same stunts eight times a week. I am amazed at what our cast does each and every day.

WG: Would you please describe what typical day or week is like and what is necessary to get a show ready?

RN: If we are only in a city for a single night, the crew begins loading in the lights, set, costumes, etc., starting in the morning. Once everything is in show-condition, the cast arrives at the theatre for a company meeting, sound check, stunt call, and to get ready for the performance. Finally, after the performance, the crew reverses everything that they did that morning and afternoon; they load-out the show and travel to the next city.

photo 3WG: Are you and the performers constantly fearful of injuries?  What preventative measures are taken to ensure the performers’ safety?

RN: I think that any performer or athlete that relies on their bodies for their profession is mindful of injury. As individuals, they spend their whole lives training and learning proper technique to avoid injury. As a production, we have an amazing physical therapist that works with everyone in our company to avoid anyone getting hurt.

WG: When do understudies and swings usually take over roles? How often do cast changes happen?

RN: Swings and understudies go on anytime someone gets sick or needs to leave the show for personal or professional reasons. All of our swings and understudies are beyond talented. Each of them knows multiple roles and they blow me away each time that they perform with the rest of the company.

WG: In your professional opinion, what makes Bring It On a great show and different from other musicals?

RN: Bring It On deals with universal emotions and themes of acceptance, hard work, and self-discovery. It uses wit and humor along with the intricacies of Andy Blankenbuehler’s staging/choreography and Lin Manual Miranda’s music to give its audiences a heart-warming and uplifting story. What makes this show different from other musicals is the performers. In music theatre, we use the term “triple threat,” to describe a performer who can sing, dance, and act with high proficiency. For this production, we had to find “quadruple threats” because the performers have to also be amazing at gymnastics and the sport of cheerleading.

photo 2WG: What is your favorite song in the show?

RN: My favorite song in the show has to be when Nadia Vynnytsky belts her face off in “One Perfect Moment.”

WG: If you got the chance, which role would you like to play?

RN: My body would break if I tried to play any of the roles. I’ve accepted that.

WG: Would you care to share any funny stories from working on the tour?

RN: Though we have many stories, I have a strict policy that what happens on tour, stays on tour.

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