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"What Do You Say Up There?" Shooting the Set from Above


Backstage staff., Digital ID 489338, New York Public LibraryThe most recent post looked at Vandamm photographs of dance rehearsals from footholds on the catwalks, ladders and rigging stations of Broadway theaters. This one focuses on their photographs of the stage crew setting up for those rehearsals.

Like all theater photographers, they depended on the crews to set scenes, move furniture and props, and adapt lighting. But, as you can see from the portraits and action shots, the Vandamms esteemed their IATSE colleagues and photographed them with the same respect as the performers. There are portraits of individuals or small groups, and shots of the crews at work. In addition, most full production documentations include a “family portrait” of the crew with designers, stage managers and, often, either Florence or Tommy Vandamm. This photograph looks down from the proscenium on the crew rigging a dome-like set structure for The Band Wagon (1930).

There are a large number of Vandamm photographs of The Band Wagon, but we are not sure how the curved uprights relate to the Albert R. Johnson stage sets or its revolving stage. That ill-fated revue is best remembered as the final appearances of the team of Fred and Adele Astaire, and for the glorious “You and the Night and the Music” and the remainder of the score by Arthur Schwartz and Harold Deitz. Fred Astaire and the songs were later re-packaged into a popular Hollywood musical about the hijacking and recovery of a Broadway musical that got too artistic and elaborate.


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