NEW YORK — As Kris Koop Ouellette, representing opera diva Carlotta Giudicelli in “The Phantom of the Opera,” stood perfectly still, arms outstretched, Billy Hipkins and Scotty Westervelt removed her costume and deftly replaced it with another, all in 30 seconds.
They were demonstrating for a group of media at Planet Hollywood in Times Square what goes on behind the scenes at the longest-running musical in Broadway history.
However, instead of costumes like the lightweight facsimile of Giudicelli’s, the nightly change involves costumes that weigh from 30 to 40 pounds and takes place onstage behind a bed in complete darkness — again, in less than 30 seconds.
Even without the glittery real costume, the demonstration was impressive. The members of the audience then got to try their hand.
The quick-change — for the curious, Ouellette was wearing clothing underneath — was a demonstration of one of the interactive workshops that are part of Broadway Classroom, a subsidiary of Broadway.com/Groups.
The workshops provide an interesting and intriguing inside look at Broadway and an opportunity to meet the people, both performers and backstage personnel, who make the plays go.
“Originally conceived for student groups, these workshops are also valuable learning opportunities for adults,” said Pat Daily, executive vice president of Broadway.com/Groups.
The workshop we attended, called the Art of Quick Change, is one of 21 in the program. Broadway Classroom recommends Up Close and Personal, Broadway Close Up, Stage Door Chat and Improvisation/Theater Sports as particularly good for adult groups.
The workshops can be coordinated with Broadway shows a group will be attending later and are a great opportunity for groups to talk with performers they will see in those shows.
Laura Osnes from “Anything Goes” and James Brown III from “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” joined our workshop and talked about how they got started in the theater business and how they prepare for their shows.
Osnes, who plays Hope Harcourt in “Anything Goes,” made her Broadway debut as Sandy in “Grease” after winning an NBC reality show to select the cast.
Brown had a more unusual route. While attending Brown University and running college track 10 years ago, he received a summer grant to study the psychology of male dancers. As part of the research, he auditioned to dance with Michael Jackson in Madison Square Garden and won the audition.