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The Invisible Hands Behind Tony-Nominated Shows

A sketch from costume designer Martin Pakladinez's vision for the number "Steam Heat" in <em>The Pajama Game</em>
A sketch from costume designer Martin Pakladinez's vision for the number "Steam Heat" in The Pajama Game

When the 60th Annual Tony Awards are presented Sunday night, viewers will see those who appear in the front of the program: actors, writers, directors, designers. But hundreds of others, whose names are less prominently displayed, are a crucial part of the Broadway scene.

The Props Master

One of those backstage names is Anmarree Rodibaugh, props master for the critically acclaimed The Lieutenant of Inishmore, a comedy about Irish terrorists. In addition to its five nominations for Tony Awards, including best play, Inishmore also holds the distinction of being one of the goriest plays ever to hit the stage. Backstage, Rodibaugh presides over a virtual abattoir: dead cats, blood, and other fabricated carnage.

Rodibaugh and her crew must also clean up the gore after each performance, including the five gallons of fake blood used for each show. "There's actually five of us," she says, "and it takes all of us about two hours."

The Wardrobe Supervisor

Susan Fallon's job for The Pajama Game -- up for five awards -- may be cleaner than Rodibaugh's, but it's certainly not easy. As the show's wardrobe supervisor, Fallon oversees a staff of dressers and day workers who meticulously clean and repair the show’s 125 costumes.

During the show, Fallon works as a dresser for star Harry Connick, Jr. Her responsibility is to help him change in and out of costumes -- sometimes in as little as 30 seconds. "We're changing him out of shoes, trousers, a belt, a shirt and a tie, into another set, on stairs," she explains. "It's rather precarious, I have to say, but fun."

The Animal Trainer

Bill Berloni has been coaching stage pets since he was 19, when he rescued a mutt from a Connecticut dog pound and trained him to be Sandy, in the very first production of Annie. "All the animals that I've trained over the last 30 years are shelter animals, whether it's dogs, cats, even the rats from The Woman in White," Berloni says. "I use rescued animals to show that these animals are useful members of society and hopefully encourage people to adopt."

Berloni has trained Barney, the poodle featured in Awake and Sing, so well that he has even captured the affection of the cast. "He's really become the family dog," explains Berloni. He says appearing in a show up for eight awards has made Barney's life not unlike that of a working New York actor.

The Understudy

Leroy McClain understudies three roles in The History Boys, the London import about public school education that's been nominated for seven awards, including best play. McClain may rehearse only once a week, but he appears on stage eight times a week to play minor roles and move set pieces.

Most of the time, understudies like McClain are all but invisible -- until they receive a panicky phone call to go on for an absent actor. Remembering one such incident in which he had to replace an actor, McClain recalls, "It was a surreal experience, doing that evening show. You know, it's just kind of like, okay, I'm onstage with people I've never acted with before, and it's just sink or swim. Luckily, I stayed afloat!"

The Tony Awards will be broadcast on CBS Sunday evening from 8 to 11 p.m. ET.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jeff Lunden is a freelance arts reporter and producer whose stories have been heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on other public radio programs.