Mark Andrews may be listed in the Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular playbill as Company Manager but according to Mark an equally accurate – and modest – description would be “glorified accountant and babysitter.”
So is that what being a Company Manager is all about then? “I don’t know! All I know is that I am there in the office in the morning and there at night and I really don’t know what I do!” Mark jokes. “No, a company manager over here in the States… is in charge of everything that happens at the theatre, in front of the pass door. JD, our production Stage Manager, is in charge of everything that happens behind the pass door – so, as far as dealing with the actors, rehearsals, understudies and all that.”
Mark’s day-to-day tasks in front of the pass door include dealing with payroll for all those involved in the company as well as various benefits for the three different unions whose members make up Phantom Vegas’s cast and crew. “That’s the Actor’s Equity Union, the Musician’s Union and the Crew Union, which covers all the carpenters, the electricians, props, sound, wardrobe and hair,” Mark explains. “Here in Las Vegas it is much easier than it is in New York. In New York we have 15 different unions that we deal with.”
As a long-standing member of the Phantom family, Mark is well-placed to identify what makes Vegas’s production of Phantom unique. “I started out in the mid 80’s on the first national tour of Les Miserables and I came back to run the Broadway company, and the three tours which were happening at that time, for a year and a half,” Mark explains. “Then Cameron [Mackintosh] sent me over to Paris to open up his office there and look after the Paris production of Les Miserables, which was like taking coals to Newcastle! It was a wonderful experience.”
After working on the first national US tour of Sunset Boulevard, Mark then went on to run Phantom on Broadway, a role he fulfilled for six and a half years, before taking some time away from the theatre business to buy and run a general store in Maine for a couple of years. “[But] that didn’t work out, so I went out on the road with the first national tour of Wicked, and then I was called to come here [to Vegas]… so… it’’ in my blood!”
So how does the Vegas spectacular differ from other productions? “Well, it’s not your parent’s Phantom!” Mark says.
“By that I mean, one of the difficulties we have in marketing this show to the masses is that people think they have seen this show – whether that is in New York or London or LA or wherever. Many times when I go out before the show on the VIP tour…I hand [people] a programme… and they are very ‘Oh, I have seen Phantom before’. And I have to say, ‘Not like this you haven’t’. Then when I see them after the show they say ‘You were right’… that’s one of the problems we have, trying to get the message out to everybody that this is a very different show. Although that’s not to take away from the other Phantom productions around the world which are still amazing in their own way.”
There are other challenges too: “For instance, on Broadway and the west coast productions of Phantom we only had maybe 20 automation cues and here we have over 100, because of all the effects, like the chandelier and the pyrotechnics,” Mark explains. “We have Vegasized this production!”
Managing the Vegas’ company is also a different experience for Mark. “The fact that we don’t have matinees at 2 or 3 o’clock [is a change]. Our first show is at 7 and the second at 9.30. The first year we did 10 shows a week at 7 and 10, and we still don’t know how we got through that!” The schedule is a bit more manageable now. “Now we are down to eight this is a very good gig for the actors and everybody involved. Except for us who work during the day as well! It’s reflected by the fact that there is not that big a turn over in this company, as I have experienced in past Phantom companies.”
And of course, being Vegas, this is no ordinary theatre-going experience – for a show housed in Las Vegas’s famous Venetian Resort, Hotel & Casino, a crashing chandelier is not the only potential distraction for audiences. Mark tells the story of one lucky audience member…
“About three or four months ago word trickled downstairs that a lady came to the show with her two friends, and went to pick up her tickets at the box office about an hour before the show started. So she decided to while away some time and about 20 feet outside the theatre there is a bank of slot machines. She went to the Wizard of Oz penny slot machine, placed a maximum bet and immediately the bells went off and she won $683,000! Of course all the casino execs came running out to shut down the machine and cordon it off and get her details for the paperwork. She told them it would have to wait until after the show! I knew where she was sitting in the theatre so I went up to her and she was sitting between her two gentlemen friends – they were all sipping big drinks and seemed very happy!”
A truly spectacular theatrical experience…
You can see Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular at the Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas NOW. Click here to book.
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