8 Best Special Effects Techniques on Broadway

Broadway has been the American theatre’s cornerstone for more than a century now. Not only that, it has also been a shining example of innovation and creativity for the theatrical world. Theatre District of Manhattan came into being after people showed interested in musicals and plays previously staged at the concert halls of the city. Over the years, Broadway productions have entertained audiences with a number of memorable stories, beautiful music and larger than life sets. The most amazing part of any production has to be the special effects employed by the many musicals and theatrical acts. Regardless of the age of the production, some of them surpass all others in the techniques and technology used. Our post today focuses on some of the very best, jaw-dropping effects that have awed the audiences from all over the world.

1. The Signature Chandelier Fall– Phantom of the Opera

Without a doubt, Phantom of the Opera’s signature chandelier fall has become one of the most well- known as well as famous Broadway stunts over the years. For more than two decades, the chandelier has been falling; and every time it leaves the audiences stunned. So the question is, how is the famous Phantom’s rage expressed by breaking glass? Experts explained the myth in this way: “four cables are attached to the chandelier and motors, two go downstage and two upstage – Before the show begins, this chandelier, now all carefully wired, is raised above the audience, as soon as the cue comes, the cables connected downstage are released. Meanwhile, the up-stage cables are guided and taken up to the required position, hence the fall on the stage.”  Sounds simple enough, maybe next time you can check out for yourself. Look for the wire, that’s the key.

2. Raoul’s Famous Plunge – Phantom of the Opera

After seeing the Phantom’s face and after the grand fall of the chandelier, the second act brings Raoul, who is leaving Madame Giry in order to look for his love, Christine. For that, he jumps into the river, off a bridge. With his body perpendicular to the floor below, he takes a pencil dive and does right “inside” and “through” the floor. This unexpected act with its subtlety leaves the audiences stunned once again. Nobody ever revealed the mechanism behind this scene, so we’ll just have to come up with our own theories.

3. The Blood on the Dress– West Side Story

Although, West Side Story is overall considered as a “violent” play, there are some scenes that come unexpectedly as shocking. People get stabbed and shot, there is basically blood everywhere. But then comes the scene where Eponine gets shot, and you can see the blood on her dress – the entire thing hits you hard while sitting there watching the play in the theatre. Another jaw-dropper! Everyone knows about the blood capsules though.

4. The Green Witch Defies Gravity– Wicked the Musical

The wicked green witch of the West from the timeless tale of Wicked manages to defy gravity in the first act of the musical. Literally and figuratively, during the famous number, Defying Gravity, Elphaba is seen ascending from the palace of the wizard. It’s presented in such a manner that the audience is forced to believe the actress is flying. However, as explained by the experts, the play doesn’t really hire real time witches, instead they have steel equipment attached to the actress around the waist, which is covered by her long, flowing dress.

phantom of the opera

5. The Magic Letters– Matilda the Musical

Matilda the Musical is the latest Broadway smash hit. One specific scene from this remarkable play is when Quora starts to write on the chalkboard by using nothing but her eyes. This scene has always left the audience puzzled. The myth was busted recently when some insight was shared by experts. Instead of using a real chalkboard, a plastic board is used during the play, and behind it is basically a screen, over which the letters appear, reflecting the image in the plastic body. So next time you go to attend Matilda to watch the amazing performance of Newtildas, you’ll know the trick!

6. The Laser Show– Matilda the Musical

Apart from the stunning magical letters, there is another scene where the audience is left stunned. When forced to join an ordinary school, the genius little girl gets stuck amidst the hideous and inconsiderate headmistress, who is keen on scaring the already scared students. This is when the green laser show begins. As explained, sixteen lasers are installed in the theatre with miniaturized projectors. This laser show is called the “ray-ography”.

7. The Dress Transformation– Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella

The audience experience a whole new level of theatrical magic when Cinderella’s dress is magically transformed right there on the stage in this theatrical classic! Similarly, the fairy godmother who appears onstage as a beggar woman transforms into an elegant older lady right in front of the audience’s eyes too. The secret, however, cannot be revealed because nobody from the production department ever gave it away! So on that end, we’ll just have to keep guessing.

8. The Giant iPads– Blue Man Group

The famous bald and blue trio of Astor Place Theatre, Blue Man Group has been entertaining and stunning the audience for more than two decades with their exciting stunts and acts. Recently, a new kind of sorcery has been added to their list of amusements. On the stage, gigantic iPads are installed, which enable the audience to engage with video images and screen. And although every aspect of their performance is visually attractive, this one takes things to another level.

These were the awe-inspiring special effects that top all the other ones on Broadway today. Without them the production wouldn’t be what it is today. Each one is worth the audiences’ time and money. Let us know which ones do you like the most by commenting.

Image courtesy: By Effie (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Ivy Oscar is a professional writer and blogger from Magnolia, Delaware. She likes to write about music, sports, celebrities and all the good things in life.
Categories: Theater

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