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Stage Manager Stories: Greg Livoti, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA


Greg's resume boasts numerous Broadway credits including David Byrne's American Utopia, Billy Elliot, Prince of Broadway, and more!

Stage Manager Stories: Greg Livoti, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

Need a cue? Call a stage manager. Need a line? Call a stage manager. Need a day off? Call a stage manager. Need a call time, a schedule, an inspection, a to-do list, a floor plan, a script, or just a pep talk? Call a stage manager!

When it comes to the hardworking folks behind the scenes of your favorite shows, perhaps no one works harder than the stage manager. Acting as the liason from the crew to the creatives and from the creatives to the company, the title "stage manager" is an umbrella term for the numerous roles these individuals play that bring order to the chaos of putting up a production.

Each month, BWW is spotlighting stage managers from across the theatrical spectrum, shedding a much-deserved light on the breadth of responsibilities these theatrical jacks-of-all-trades take on and the heart, hope, and humor they bring to their work as Broadway returns from its lengthy shutdown.

With over seventeen years of experience managing theatrical and corporate events around the world including plays, musicals, award ceremonies, galas, trade shows, corporate meetings and immersive events, Greg Livoti, the stage manager of The Phantom of the Opera is an industry veteran.

Throughout his career, Greg has racked up seven Broadway credits including Phantom, David Byrne's American Utopia, Billy Elliot, Prince of Broadway, Oleanna, The Pajama Game, and Magic/Bird, as well as numerous live and virtual events.

We spoke to Greg over the summer just as Broadway got the greenlight to resume performances. Get to know more about Greg and his role in Phantom's return in our interview here:

When people think stage manager, we think of the person with the headset and the script who calls the show. But there is so much more to your job than most people realize. What are the other aspects of your job that people might not be aware of?

This is always a fun question to answer because I've heard so many analogies about it. One of my favorite ones is the "air traffic controller" aspect, where everything is sort of coming in to you and you've got to make sure that everything gets lined up and landed safely. So on any given day I'm looking ahead and managing our future rehearsal schedules and putting together plans in conjunction with our technical departments. I'm also the point of contact for a performer if they're not feeling well and need to call out sick that day. It's our responsibility to make sure that the show is covered in terms of understudies going on and who those understudies are. I also have the very glamorous job of being the one that people come to when the toilet in the basement restroom is clogged or out of toilet paper. So, there is the glamorous stuff about calling the cues and really being enmeshed in the overall operational elements of, of a Broadway musical. But when the air conditioning is on too high in the building and people are cold, they also come and let me know about it.

There's also the overall maintenance of the artistic production. Once or twice a week, I'll sit out in the audience and just watch the show as an audience member and take notes on how things are looking and feeling. Are we getting the right emotional beats throughout the show in various performances? Is the scenery and lighting in sync? Is it looking the way that it's supposed to? If it's not, is it a computer thing or is it a human thing? I'll take those notes and talk to the respective departments about it. I'll speak with actors about how a particular moment might be landing, or how could they potentially be more effective if they came at it from a different approach. With our technical departments, I'll check in about a set piece that seems to be a hair late or early and what we can do about getting it to line up again. That's a semi long-winded answer to [laughs] a very good question.

With so many responsibilities and the rigor of an eight-show week, your workload must be substantial. How do you deal with the stress of your position?

We all have days in our job where we might not be having a good day for whatever reason. It's stressful or there's a lot of work piling up or we're just feeling like we're having an off day. When that happens, a thing I like to do is stand on the side of the audience at the beginning of the show and watch what happens when that opening chord hits, that iconic chord in the overture. The chandelier rises to life and ascends up into the house. I don't watch the chandelier, or what's going on onstage, I watch the people's faces and I watch them lit up by the chandelier. I watch their faces as it rises. That is the thing that I can go back to any day that I'm having a bad day. Because I know that what we're doing and the story that we're telling can transport people out of whatever they've been experiencing or whatever they're coming into the building with and take them somewhere else. That's what gets me excited again about being a part of something like this.

When did the process begin to bring Phantom back to life and what goes into bringing such a large and iconic production back to life?

We've been meeting weekly since the governor gave the okay for shows to reopen in the fall. We have a weekly conference call with our management team to go over items that are coming up on a week to week basis and provide a touch point for us to also check in on the larger projects that we're embarking on.

In very early June, we had our crew in the theatre for an assessment of what the physical state of the production is like after being dormant for over a year. This equipment was used six days a week pretty much continuously for 30 years. So we really needed to do a deep dive in to see what was working and if anything had deteriorated over time. We went in and turned everything on for the first time in 14 or 15 months, and I'm happy to report that everything works! The chandelier fell to earth exactly as it was supposed to.

Now we're going to be fine tuning our systems and making sure the show is looking in tip-top shape across all departments. The goal here is to have adequate time to make sure that when we have our first audience on October 22, the show is the same quality, not only in performance but in its technical reputation as being a very robust and spectacular production.

Take me to your first performance back on October 22. What do you think it will be like to sit down at the script again with the headset and call places and get to bring Phantom to life again?

I've been nervous, like real "butterflies in my stomach" nervous, two times since I've been calling the show. The first time it was the very first time I did it and the second time was at our 30th anniversary gala performance. For the first time I did it, obviously it's the first time, right? So there's nerves there. But at the gala performance, there was something different in the air that night that felt like an opening night, that felt like something grander than us was happening and I have a feeling that this first night back is going to have that feeling also. Before the 30th anniversary performance, I was checking in with everybody else on the headset and I could tell that in people's voices, the tenor of the voice was a little bit different. I said to them, but I said it to remind myself, too, "We've done this thousands of times before. Acknowledge the specialness of this, but remember, we've done this before. So, we don't need to be nervous. We've done it before." And I think it's going to be that moment across the board.

What's the most exciting part of bringing Phantom back to life on Broadway?

When we come back, the butterflies of being back in front of an audience again, and feeling the response, I've thought about it a lot over the last year-plus. So when we got the first performance date officially announced to the company, that's a day I've just been looking forward to for that exact feeling of being able to wake this show that's a household name, but it's more than that, it's a generational experience for people. I can't tell you how many stories I've heard about people who saw it in the eighties and nineties and then took their kids to it. Now the show has been around so long that those kids have had kids and they've brought their kids to it. It becomes a generational experience for all these families to share with one another. To be able to bring that back is...I'm getting a little bit of goosebumps now just talking to you about it. The energy in the building. I can't imagine.

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