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Student Blog: A Week with the Star

My Time Covering the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Student Blog: A Week with the Star

Over the past week, I've had the incredible opportunity to cover the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade for BroadwayWorld's Student Blog Center. As a part of this process I attended performance rehearsals, the balloon inflation, and of course, the parade itself! Read on to find out more about what it's like to spend a week with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

When asked about Broadway's relationship to the parade, Will Coss, the executive producer of Macy's Branded Entertainment, stated that "Macy's has had a long history with Broadway and celebrating some great performances throughout our very long history. And this year is going to be a special one. Broadway was dark and Macy's Parade last year was a modified parade. So we're all looking forward to celebrating the great tradition and ushering in the holiday season in a really special way."

On Monday, there were two musicals from Broadway that rehearsed - Wicked and Six, as well as some other musical acts including the cast of Girls5eva and several different dancing groups. For those unaware of how the parade works, performances take place in front of Macy's on 34th Street, on a street covered with a green sheet and the parade's logo. All of the performers lip-sync to songs that had been recorded before the final rehearsal but are still giving it their all with full choreography.

Wicked was rehearsing "One Short Day," an ensemble-heavy number with Ozians dancing around the Emerald City. For the parade rehearsals, the only part of the costume that cast members wear is their shoes (this was true for all of the performances, not just Wicked). There were several props, including a large bicycle, a scooter, and a sign advertising "Wizomania." As someone who hadn't seen Wicked live in years, it was lovely to see a part of it again. I also had the chance to talk with Jeff Heimbrock and ask him about what performing for the Thanksgiving Parade has been like. "Performing at the Parade was truly a dream come true. Seeing the shows perform was as close as I could get to Broadway for most of my growing up, and it was such a special holiday tradition. I am so grateful to be that legacy, especially with Wicked, one of my first theatrical loves and the first Broadway show to perform twice on the NBC Thanksgiving Day telecast. Also happy I didn't trip over my scooter and embarrass myself on national television!"

Student Blog: A Week with the Star

When asked about her experience at the rehearsal after performing with Girls5eva, Sara Bareilles said that the parade has "been so much fun! This is a huge event - It's a seminal event for the holiday for so many families, so it's really fun to get to be a part of it and it's great to be here with my dear friends and sisters from the show [Girls5eva].

The final rehearsal performance of the night was the cast of Six, with the ladies-in-waiting included! It was great to see the musicians represented on stage as they are an integral part of each musical. The performance was a mash-up of the first and last songs of the show, "Ex-Wives" and "Six." I really enjoyed seeing the choreography marked through as I have been watching it for years and now can do a little bit of it myself (which is exactly what I did off to the side)!

For Day 2 of rehearsals, the main highlights for me were Darren Criss and Moulin Rouge!. I was excited for both as I have seen Darren perform multiple times online and have watched clips from the actors in Moulin Rouge!, but it was the first time seeing either of them live. It was actually quite amusing because Darren performed in the middle of the Moulin Rouge! rehearsal due to some timing mishaps, lip-syncing along to "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" as the cast of the show rehearsed their choreography around him.

Each of the Broadway shows had a similar process of rehearsing. All of the actors find their starting places with the dance captain reminding them to memorize the spot where they are standing for the day of the performance. They then mark through the song with the dance captain saying the lyrics and giving the actors advice for how to perform for the cameras, making sure everyone was within the sightlines for the television. Once everyone is confident the film crew announces "Stand by" and counts down from five before the music starts playing.

While it wasn't specifically about the musical aspects of the Parade, I still enjoyed taking the time to go out to the balloon inflation, which takes place on the two blocks on the north and south of the American Museum of Natural History. It was a great way to see another process of how people prepare for the parade, not just the performers who get all of the credit and recognition on the television screen.

The parade itself? An absolute delight. I got up at 4:30 AM and took the subway down to 72nd Street, grabbing a spot on the barricade right on Central Park West. I waited for around three hours, listening to some Broadway cast albums on my phone and trying to keep my fingers and toes from freezing off. Luckily the weather was gorgeous so I didn't need to worry too much! Even though I didn't get to see the performances I'd seen in rehearsal live, it was still fun to recognize people like Darren Criss on the floats going down the street, waving and having the time of their lives.

Ultimately, this past week has been absolutely incredible and I was honored to play even a small part in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. It was definitely a busy week but such a fun way to see how everything was put together, particularly when it came to Broadway and musical performances.

A special thanks to Ryan Gannon for helping with press arrangements!

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