OKLAHOMA—“To the trees!” The dancers, musicians and backstage crew huddled behind the curtain of Armstrong Auditorium on August 20 split to go to their stations and wait for the sound of drums, the glow of the projectors and the voice of the narrator to begin. Many of them expressed the excitement of having a special guest in the audience. This show was the culmination of a 16-week season during which the cast and crew of the Irish dance show Celtic Throne performed 17 shows in 14 cities. The main part of the season was a seven-week tour of the Eastern United States, undertaken by 32 dancers and 27 crew members, most of whom had multiple responsibilities from marketing and public relations, hotels and accommodations, transportation, prop set-up and maintenance, lighting, sound and cyclorama, costuming, merchandise, food and catering, photography and videography, music and dancing. In nine vehicles from mini vans to trucks, the crew traveled on the road for seven weeks, covering over 6,400 miles. Over the course of the tour, they stayed in 14 hotels, totaling 253 rooms over the 48, and combined with nine different Philadelphia Church of God congregations for Sabbath services.
Cast and crew members piled into one 15-passenger van, two 12-passenger vans, three mini vans, and three trucks, one of which pulled a trailer carrying theater lights; close to 3,000 feet of lighting cables; approximately 300 costumes; a keyboard, bass, drums and other musical instruments; set pieces including stairs, a bandstand, a throne, 2,150 square feet of dance flooring and stage props. A second truck pulled a smaller trailer with the crew’s luggage and the last truck carried the food for the tour.
The group often travelled to a new location two days before a show. On the longer drives between locations some of the cast and crew visited historical sites such as Colonial Williamsburg and Monticello in Virginia, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center in Pennsylvania and Ft. McHenry in Maryland.
The marketing aspect of the show was taken on by David Vejil, a job he has had since the first Celtic Throne tour in 2020. To spread the word, Vejil worked with a media agent to buy radio and TV time for them, which he said is the “more traditional and mainstream way” of advertising. He also advertised through online marketing, including social media and music apps, and ground marketing, including posters and flyers.
In many cities, on the days they weren’t performing or travelling, dancers and musicians advertised through street performances. Lead dancer Jude Flurry arranged sets with show choreography put to different songs, and the troupe performed the sets in pubs, at street fairs, outside of restaurants and in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. During their afternoon promos at the memorial, two sets of local police checked the permit the troupe had to perform there, expressing their surprise as they had never seen anyone get permission to perform in that location before. Co-director Brad Macdonald said that these incidents “showed what miracle it was” to dance there.
While dancers and musicians were performing on the street, the stage crew could be found setting up the next theater. Stage, lighting and sound setup often took two days. Sound manager Izaak Lorenz, lighting manager Ethan Hensley and three other crew members unloaded the trailer, hanging the two projectors for the cyclorama imagery, hanging and focusing 22 different light fixtures, programming the theater’s sound and lighting board, doing maintenance on props and setting up the fog machine. Anything they didn’t finish the first day would be done the day of the show as the dancers and musicians were rehearsing.
Cole March served as the food and catering manager for the tour this year, working alongside his wife Jennifer and a team of assistants, which included some mothers of the performers and some of the performers themselves to serve lunch and dinner for approximately 60 people. March worked out of a truck containing grills, dry storage, cold storage, and outfitted with two generators powering refrigerators to preserve the approximately 530 pounds beef, 960 eggs, 14 gallons of milk, 100 loaves of bread, 576 heads of lettuce and 900 servings of snacks provided by Philadelphia Church of God members, among other food that sustained the group over the course of the tour.
Mothers of the performers cleaned, ironed and organized the costumes, setting up three main costuming areas at each theater: one for men, one for ladies and one for “littles,” or the youngest performers of the troupe. They set aside separate dressing rooms for the musicians. On non-show days, they washed street performance gear as well as parts of the show costumes in communal hotel washers and dryers.
On show days, dancers and musicians would arrive at the theater close to noon, set their belongings down in the dressing rooms and assemble on stage. After a rehearsal briefing from Mr. Macdonald, lead dancer Jude Flurry would give the rundown on the parts to rehearse before the evening’s performance. At around 4:00, the musicians met on stage for a sound-check. Between dinner and the show start time, the performers prepared for the show, going over any individual choreography that they needed to, fixing their hair, warming up and putting on their costumes. After a brief pep talk from Mr. Macdonald in the minutes leading up to a show, the troupe would say a group prayer and wait for Mr. Macdonald’s final words before each show: “To the trees!” This was the signal for dancers, musicians and stage crew to take their positions so the show could begin.
The encore performance of the season was attended by Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who was visiting Edmond for an address in Armstrong Auditorium, among other events. The tour portion was combined with three personal appearance campaigns in Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Vejil is already looking into theaters for the 2024 summer tour of Celtic Throne, and the dancers are working on choreography for a new show that is in the works.