Today, the Broadway world is a little less bright with the passing of Beverley Randolph, a long time production stage manager who lost her battle with cancer this morning. She was 59.
The first time I heard Beverley's name mentioned, it wasn't in a very positive light. Mind you, this was after I'd found out I'd be working my first Broadway show as the Head Electrician with Beverley as the Production Stage Manager. I don't know if those who knew her were trying to pull my leg when telling their unflattering stories, or if they really disliked her. I'd come to find out soon enough that if you did your job well, she would treat you like gold. Of course, having a pre-conceived notion of what I might be headed for didn't leave me with a good feeling. And my first impression made me think the not-so-nice stories I'd heard were valid.
You see initially, Tom Sawyer was supposed to have an out of town tryout in New Haven, Connecticut at the Shubert Theater. Soon afterward it was decided that we would open cold in New York and abandon the tryout. This was all well and good, except that no one told the people in New Haven. They had sold tickets, were awaiting a show and canceling at such a late date was out of the question. By this time, we had already prepped our equipment for New York and were loading in to the theatre for the Broadway run, so a compromise was reached whereby New Haven would get a pared down version of the show. Originally, they'd decided on a concert version of the show. Then it became a concert version with costumes, then some minor set pieces, and before we knew it, there was an attempt to stage a version of the full show in New Haven.
A couple of electricians were hired to put in the abbreviated run in New Haven and somewhere within a week or two into our load in in New York, I was told that I'd have to go to New Haven to run the show. I balked. I thought this was a ridiculous idea because we were already setting up for the run in New York, my place was here and it made no sense to go to New Haven for a crucial ten days while our load in and dry tech was taking place for the actual Broadway run. I was told I had no choice. "Beverley had insisted" that I come.
Two days later, I arrived in New Haven. Most of the work was done and I was angered that I was taken away from my duties to sit on a show that only a few weeks ago was not in the picture. My irritability was soon alleviated when a rather tall woman with long dark hair, a commanding presence and a big smile strode up to introduce herself. It was Beverley.
She told me how grateful she was that I was able to come, and how she felt better having me there to get to know me and have someone to lean on during tech in New York. She also felt that I'd get a good head start for our Broadway production by having a sneak peek. She was right.
I told her I was here mainly at her request and if she needed anything, not to hesitate in asking. She said, "Well, the main thing I'd like are cue lights. There hasn't been enough time to set them up. But I don't really need them until tomorrow." Having just gotten there, I told her I'd see what I could do. An hour later I approached her and said, "Your cue lights are all set." She looked at me incredulously, apparently shocked that I'd gotten the task done so quickly and thanked me. And that's all it took. Beverley knew I was on her side and we hit it off. That simple task formed a bond of trust between us. She knew I had her back and I knew she had mine.
When we got to New York and began our tech there, she'd call me privately to let us know when we were close to a break and wanted to make sure it was okay with the lighting designer while he was working on cues; either we could stretch it out a bit if he was in the middle of something or take it as scheduled. Trust.
As I said earlier, our working relationship was short-lived and I never had the privilege of working with her again. Our career paths never crossed after that one show. For a couple of years afterward, I would run into her occasionally on the street or stop by to say hello at a show she was working on and was always greeted with a warm smile. Working on the same show for the last four years, I haven't ventured beyond my normal routine too much which cause random meetings to become rare, so when I found out Beverley was no longer with us I felt a sadness that I never got a chance to see her again. But I will always have fond memories of her smile, her amazing work ethic and her booming laugh.
My condolences to her family and her husband, Jim. Tomorrow at 8pm, all the lights on Broadway will dim for one minute in memory of Beverley Randolph. When they restore, I don't think they'll seem as bright. She will be missed.