by Brandt Martinez
The entire company of The Great Comet was filled with energy as we waited to perform on the Tony Awards in 2017. Since our show was staged all through out the house of the Imperial, we wanted to bring that same feel to Radio City. So we sat in the lobby waiting to take our places in the house for our performance. We all were riled up watching the awards being presented, knowing that we need to get just one good win to have a better chance of staying open through the slower months coming up after summer. The last good win we could have gotten was Best Director of a Musical, which was being presented right before our performance. Turns out, Rachel Chavkin did not win.
Obviously, many feelings were flying around the company so we sat together and meditated on the floor of the Radio City lobby for 15 minutes. It started in an unspoken way. We were warming up silent, feeling all the feelings, and next thing I knew we were all sitting with our legs crossed focusing on our breath. It was a beautiful moment.
I was cast as Dance Captain/Swing in Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812, a show very near and dear to my heart because of how involved the ensemble was. The Great Comet was staged throughout the entire audience. In the aisles, up in the mezzanine, up and down the stairs from our stage to the balcony. Platform stages throughout the house: one in the mezzanine and two in the orchestra with a “snake” stage winding down the middle of the house.
We opened the show with two swings. Paloma Garcia Lee and myself. We were responsible for 20 tracks. Our choreographer was adamant about the coverage being gender fluid, so many times I would go on in female tracks, Paloma in male tracks. Eventually we picked up three more swings to help with the load. We were on a lot, and many times in split track situations. Those are my favorite, and my swing team was a dream to bounce around with. I was told all of the swings would be performing prior to our first Tony Rehearsal. We were all ecstatic. Our other three swings were all making their Broadway debuts and now their Tony Debuts!
It’s very important to stage the swings into each Tony performance for a few reasons. First being, they are very much the glue that holds the company together. Each and every night when cast members are taking their sick days to make sure their longevity is there, the swings are the ones that makes sure the show will happen. Whether that means gracefully stepping into one single track or jumping between four different tracks on a Sunday matinee.
The Tony performance is a celebration for opening a show on Broadway and a way to present the company of said show to the nation. Swings are very important parts of that company.
I feel it is also very important for company moral. It is easy for a company on Broadway to get a bit separated. Swings vs. onstage cast for no other reason but simply not being around each other much. Having the swings perform with the onstage cast for the Tonys is a great way to help unite the company. And lastly, nothing is worse than doing a very important job to keep a machine running and feeling like it goes unnoticed. When producers decide to not have the swings perform, that makes the swings feel like their very important job is not seen and celebrated.
I feel as though most Broadway shows will have their swings perform with the onstage cast. I hope moving forward this is not a choice, but is an unspoken standard.