Catching up with the crew…part 1 - Riverdance

Catching up with the crew…part 1

For most people going to a show means buying tickets ( or getting a ticket as a present which is even better), getting the glad rags on, making your way to the venue , being shown to your seats and basically to just sit back relax and enjoy the show. Before I started touring I would have done the exact same thing, but now when I go to a show I always sit and think about what is going on all around me… how long must it have taken to set up everything? the stage, lighting, microphones, sound checks, backstage area, the costumes, or wonder if there is some sort of wardrobe malfunction going on back stage that someone is trying to fix before the next number. This week I caught up with our wardrobe supervisor Mary Sheehan to find out what really goes on behind the scenes and what it takes to put on such wonderful show night after night.


Describe your typical show day?

Depending on the show time that evening Nicola and myself would normal arrive at the venue, whether it be from a hotel or off a sleeper bus, between 8.30 and 9.30 on a load in morning. The most important thing for us on a load in morning is to get our washing machines and dryers plumed in and powered up as soon as possible. Once we set up our three boards and created an area for ironing and steaming it is time for me to greet our local maintained staff. Every load in we get three local crew who will iron and steam all of the costumes contained in our quick-change cases. They will work for approximately five hours with one returning in the evening to dress on the show.

Once the local crews have started I will hand their supervision over to Nicola, who also helps out with anything costume related and I will go to the washing machines and sort the Laundry into baskets.

By the time we reach 1.30/1.45 we aim to have everything in the cases finished and after checking with me our stage manager Dennis will arrive with local stage hands to move the cases to the pre chosen quick change area, usually and hopefully directly behind the stage. I will direct the cases into position and if myself and Dennis are happen with the configuration which I aim to always have the same, then we proceed to add chairs, the mirrors we travel with as well as hang tidies and shoe caddies.

Every item of costume must be in place before the cast arrive around 4.30 as well as mesh bags and towels. I am quite particular about the way I like things ordered and hung.

Repairs and alteration go on thought the day and once everything is in place Nicola will chick the hang tidies on both QC to make sure our spare items are toped up. When the cast arrives myself and Nicola are available should there be any issues.

At 5.30 the dresser will arrive. Once the dresser is settled myself and Nicola will take the opportunity, while the cast are on stage for rotations, to have some dinner after which we will make the final preparations for the show. If we are loading out the show that night we will then begin to pack away all of our equipment including Irons, boards and the sewing machine. Some smaller equipment is left out for the majority of the show but overall much of our load out is complete before the opening number.

During the show, while Nicola is dressing, I will be watching over our dresser, packing away the last bits of equipment, attending to any requests from the quick change and doing any further repairs needed.

On a load out night I will also be collecting shirts for laundry as they go into the basket in the quick change and transfer them to our laundry bags. Just before Heartland on a load out night I will have packed away the mirror, hang tidy and shoe caddy into the cases in the boys QC and Nicola will have done the same in the girls. Once the show is finished and everyone has left the QC all three of us will move as fast as possible to close all the cases as they are the first thing to go on the first truck. We will then move to collect all of the laundry from the dressing rooms and load everything on to the truck.

What is your favourite costume?

I have special place for the female troupe Reel around the Sun dresses. They have all the elements that make up a good dance costume. The stretch velvet looks good on everyone, they are uniform but the also hold the most unique power of any of the costumes. They are contextually spot on and they are perfectly placed to open the show with the emerging light making the gold threading grow in sparkle on the green back ground.

Some fun facts about the laundry department

Guess how many wardrobe cases we travel with?…..We travel with a whopping 17 wardrobe cases.

Everyday approximately 18 loads of laundry are done and almost everything is washed on a low temperature cold wash. Wardrobe use 12-15 litres of washing detergent every week

So far on this tour we have gone through almost 40 extra pairs tight, about 35 pairs of black socks, 15 white t –shirts, approximately 25 pairs of laces, 12 insoles, 5 big boxes of hair clips, numerous cans of hairspray and too many bottles of vodka to mention…(It is sprayed onto the costumes!)

Approximately every 8 shows we send something in the region of 70 items of costume to dry cleaning.

The whole process of load out for wardrobe on a good night can be as quick as 18 minutes…the fastest load out Mary has ever done was 15 minutes on last years china tour.

So there you have it! Everything you need to know about our wardrobe department!


Spartan 300 Challenge


Catching up with the crew…Production Stage Manager