By Monday evening, the "Wicked" dragon was comfortably peering down from high above the "Wicked" stage at the Saroyan Theatre — almost as if he never had been gone.
Three years after its first blockbuster run in Fresno, the national tour of "Wicked" is back for a second round of Broadway bravado.
The show opens tonight for 15 performances through April 13, bringing as many as 34,000 fans of the musical to downtown Fresno.
"Wicked" recently passed its 10th anniversary on Broadway, and nearly 14 million people have seen the two national tours that criss-cross the country.
The current production closed Sunday in San Antonio, and on Monday an advance crew of eight moved what officially is known as the Clock of the Time Dragon, into the Saroyan.
There is a reason the mechanical beast looked so peaceful amid the Tuesday frenzy: There actually are two used by the tour. In order to give the dragon a Monday headstart, each dragon only plays in every other city.
By Tuesday morning that crew had been joined by almost 100 local workers, who helped unload lights, sets, speakers, costumes and equipment needed to stage the elaborate musical. It all had to be unpacked from 13 tractor trailers — everything from Glinda's 40-pound bubble dress to the shiny walls of the Emerald City.
Company manager Ryan Lympus was overseeing it all, a task roughly equivalent to picking up your entire household and moving it every couple of weeks. He pointed backstage.
"What the audience sees is the choreography onstage, but what's happening back there is actually a whole nother show unto itself, and just as important to make the show run smoothly," he said. "To make sure the actors get changed, that no one gets hurt, that all the set pieces are moved into the right spot ... there's a constant flow of activity back there, and I think that's really cool."
The "Wicked" setup includes 300 lighting instruments (200 of them that move) and an entire sound system, with more than 50 speakers, that bypasses the Saroyan's (lackluster) house system.
Nine local musicians are joining the four traveling members of the "Wicked" orchestra, and on Tuesday they were setting up in the Saroyan lobby for an intensive rehearsal. Today they'll gather for a 1 p.m. downbeat in the theater for a final rehearsal.
Cast and crew members on Tuesday still were making their way to Fresno, but they're all required to be at the Saroyan by 3 p.m. today, where they will gather for a meeting to get acquainted with the theater.
They also will officially welcome three new principal performers — Laurel Harris as Elphaba, Kara Lindsay as Glinda and Gene Weygandt as the Wizard — who kick off their extended contracts in the tour in Fresno. The cast will run through several numbers to check sound and lighting levels. Opening night curtain is 7:30 p.m.
In a little less than two weeks, all this will be repeated when "Wicked" makes its next move, to Boise. The good news: When it comes to Broadway shows, it's easier to move out than move in. "What takes three days to put up," Lympus says, "takes five hours to take down."
"Wicked," Today-April 13, Saroyan Theatre, 700 M St. (800) 745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com/wicked. $55-$130
Two and one-half hours before each performance, people who present themselves at the Saroyan Theatre box office will have their names placed in a lottery drum. Thirty minutes later, names will be drawn for a limited number of orchestra seats at $25 each, cash only. Limit of two tickets per person. Lottery participants must have a valid photo ID when submitting an entry form and, if chosen, when purchasing tickets.