November 24, 2016
By Leonard Golubchck, LaborPress Entertainment Editor
How do you get a double-decker bus into the theater at Radio City? Who does the groundwork that enables the audience to enjoy exciting moments during the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, including setting up scenery that’s almost four stories tall? That’s all part of the job for the theater’s 23 carpenters, members of Local 1 of the International Association of Theatrical and Stage Employees.
Putting on the annual Christmas Spectacular begins with unloading truckloads of scenery, says head carpenter Ted Wondsel. Next, he and the 22 carpenters he supervises set up the scenery; install the necessary rigging for lights, sound, and special effects; and adjust the hydraulic system that raises and lowers parts of the stage. They have to follow blueprints to ensure that the computers and automated systems that run special effects and lighting are in place—from the light show to the three-dimensional presentation where Santa travels from his North Pole workshop to Radio City Music Hall. If anything needs welding, Wondsel also oversees that.
One of the most difficult tasks the crew has is getting a double-decker tour bus into the theater. It has to be cut into several parts and then put back together. In the Christmas Spectacular, it’s a central prop for the “New York at Christmas” number, a song-and-dance routine by the Rockettes. (It’s stored offstage by being hung 23 feet above the floor, Radio City says.)
All this means that Wondsel’s crew regularly works more than 12 hours a day during the show’s preparation and performances. Once the show is running, they’re responsible for repairing any scenery that might have been damaged. They also work the “gridiron” above the stage, dropping cables.
Wondsel also supervises payroll and schedules events for members of Local 1.