State Theatre New Jersey

Podcast

Interview with Matt DiCarlo, Tour Director for The Play That Goes Wrong

What would happen if Sherlock Holmes and Monty Python had an illegitimate Broadway baby? You’d get The Play That Goes Wrong, coming to State Theatre New Jersey April 2-4, 2020. Tour Director and Rutgers Alumni Matt DiCarlo chats with us about how he's been with the production almost since the beginning and just how much planning goes into things going wrong each show.

Read the Transcribed Interview Below

with Bert, Kelly, and Hanna from All Access and special guest Matt DiCarlo.

Bert: Welcome back to All Access with State Theatre New Jersey still to come we’re going to talk about just added upcoming events, of course, that are coming soon to the State Theatre stage. We are all excited, of course, Kelly and Hanna, about the Broadway Season that’s coming up real soon. Our next guest with us here today is going to be talking about the show that is taking over the theater April 2nd through 4th. Would you like to introduce him? 

Kelly: Yes! And taking over the theatre they will in every kind of way… haha… every piece of the theatre. That is for The Play that Goes Wrong, April 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. It is if Sherlock Holmes and Monty Python were to have an illegitimate Broadway baby, right? That’s what they say?

Hanna: Yes haha. 

Kelly: And with us today is Matt DiCarlo, the tour director for the national tour for The Play That Goes Wrong. Welcome Matt!

Matt: Hi there! Thanks so much for having me!

Kelly: Yeah! So Rutgers alumni coming back to New Jersey? That’s super exciting!

Matt: Yes! Jersey born and raised. I’m so excited that The Play That Goes Wrong is coming to New Brunswick, where I, you know, saw so many shows growing up at the State Theatre. So, this is really exciting for me. 

Kelly: Awesome! And I don’t know when the last time you were back here, but things have changed around the Rutgers campus, for sure! Haha. 

Matt: Yeah.

Kelly: But yeah, so The Play that Goes Wrong. So, how did you get involved with The Play That Goes Wrong and the national tour?

Matt: The Play That Goes Wrong is the gift that just keeps on giving. I was the production stage manager when the show opened on Broadway just over two years ago and we ran it at the Lyceum Theatre for almost two years. Halfway through that run I also became the show’s associate director and when it came time for the national tour the authors, who are all London based, Mischief Theatre, is the name of their Company. And our producer, Kevin McCollum, asked me if I would be interested in staging the tour and that’s what I did! The show is having incredible success on the road and when it closed on Broadway early this year, the show transferred to New World Stages where it’s still currently running in New York and I worked on that production too. So, I’m just having a great time, sort of, getting to make the mischief happen all over the country. It’s really, really exciting and we’re having a blast!

Hanna: Glad to hear it! So for people who, you know, may not be familiar with The Play That Goes Wrong, can you give us just a little bit of plot line, sure, but to what extent to things go wrong? Like what can people expect when they come to see this show?

Matt: Oh, yes. Absolutley. Let’s see, without giving a lot of it away, what I can say is The Play That Goes Wrong is about an amateur theatre troupe, the Cornley University Drama Society, putting on the Murder at Haversham Manor, which a classic is sort of Agatha Christie Mousetrap stylized murder mystery. It is opening night of that show, and anything that you can imagine gong wrong in a live performance that has happened at your high school or your community theatre happens here. The show goes through their opening night, and the audience gets to watch them strive to get to the end of the play, while quite literal madness is happening around them. And I mean missed lines, broken scenery, props in the wrong place, any sort of technical mishap that you can imagine probably happens over the course of two hours. 

Kelly: Haha. That is very true. This is one of those shows that actually Hanna saw and when I was looking to see a show, Hanna said “well you got to see that one!” and I went to see it, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but yes, everything does go wrong. But of course, in your world, it’s going right. If it’s going completely wrong, that means it’s going right because that’s the show, right? Taking it on the road, you know, it’s one thing staying in one Broadway house for a while and everything had its certain place, but taking it on the road and setting it up each time and then having some rehearsal to make sure everyone’s comfortable with it. That has to be a crazy process. 

Matt: You are absolutely right! What we always say is “we have to make sure the show goes wrong the right way.” For us, there’s an unbelievable science and a careful method to make sure that everything in the show happens routinely, with the right timing, in a safe way. And the staff and the company who bring this show around the country are absolutely unbelievable. I have travelled to see the show in many different cities to check-in and watch it and see how it’s going and it’s really amazing to see that Tony® Award-winning set get loaded in and out of trucks every week and travel and get put back up and really replicate itself in a beautiful way. We owe so much to the stagehands and stage managers on the tour who take such good care of that show and make sure that all of this theatre magic can go wrong eight times a week in different cities. It’s exciting. 

Hanna: I was going to say, this is not really a show where something can be left on the truck. Haha! It does not work!

Matt: Haha! No! No! Although that would be something going wrong… just in the wrong way!

Hanna: So as production stage manager, some people may be kind of vaguely familiar with what a stage manager does, can you discuss what a stage manager generally does? You’ve worked on other shows of course, so, how that works, and then how that changes when suddenly you’re in the show that’s not only on stage, it’s also around the theatre itself and there’s so much chaos happening that all needs to be contained and controlled the entire time.

Matt: The job of the production stage manager on any show involves so many moving parts. It’s sort of the one person in the building who interacts with every single person involved with the production. In a sort of intimate way, you sort of know every element and every aspect of the show so closely so that you’re able to monitor, take care, and check that everything is happening properly. Once the show is up and running, once the show is on the road, once its been running for a long time wherever you are, you are responsible for making sure that that show stays technically and artistically the way it was on opening night. So, there’s sort of a great responsibility there in upholding the integrity of the show and that makes the job rewarding, challenging, and never the same two days in a row…that’s for sure! Haha!

Kelly: That’s awesome! That’s actually something that I was going to say, is that each show is very unique, and I know every show is its own experience or whatever, but in this one in particular, you have this set amount of things that happen, but there has to be, I’m sure, times you recognize when the actors improvise or change it a little bit slightly each night. Does it scare you? Or is it exciting in your role? 

Matt: How about both? I think with The Play That Goes Wrong in particular, there are some moments that are built to have some improvisation in them, so we know when they’re coming. So, it’s always exciting to watch and see what will happen on those nights in those specific moments. Of course, as is the case with any live performance anywhere in the world, there are also those very special moments where something will happen on stage, or something will happen in the audience, that will just require the actor to improvise and say something out of the ordinary. Those moments are equally as exciting, because often times, the actor is making a brilliant choice to cover, or fix, or comment, on a moment. And they can also be equally surprising when it’s something that you’re really not expecting, but that goes back to sort of the job of the production stage manager, or a director in many ways, it’s just never the same twice, and that, I think, is the thrill of doing live theater. That’s why I studied it, that’s why I do it. 

Hanna: Yeah! So, as part of watching the show on stage, of course, you’re not only watching the actors that are performing The Murder at Haversham Manor, you are also watching the crew that is trying to hold that production together. So, how closely to those actors get as to what it’s like really being a crew member backstage at a show? 

Matt: It’s great. The actors that play Annie and Trevor in The Play That Goes Wrong, who are the stage manager and technical director, and then there are a couple actors who play stagehands… it’s amazing what they learn from observing the real stagehands. They all have characters of their own that are deeply imbedded in the Cornley University Drama Society, and Trevor and Annie in order to keep the show going, end up having to step out of their comfort zone a little bit once in a while to keep the show moving forward. So without giving too much away, I think they, like so many stagehands, end up having to go above and beyond their call of duty to keep The Murder at Haversham Manor moving forward. 

Kelly: So, you’ve been with The Play That Goes Wrong for quite some time. First day Matt at The Play That Goes Wrong versus now Matt, what have you learned, what have been the challenges, what have been the surprises, the incredible joys doing this?

Matt: That’s a good question. My first day, I walked into a small rehearsal studio in London and met the original company who are coming over to do it on Broadway, and I was going to spend a couple weeks with them over there. I remember when I met them for the first time, I remember thinking: “this job is going to be unlike anything I’ve ever done before.” All these years later, that is absolutely true. I think The Play That Goes Wrong has really been, for me, a thing where I get to go to work every day and laugh… and I mean belly laugh not just sort of chuckle. It’s a job where I find an incredible amount of joy. There is nothing as a group of people, we as Americans need to do more right now than laugh and you can just go watch The Play That Goes Wrong and laugh for two hours. It is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life to sit in a theatre of people who have never seen the show before and watch them experience what I experienced when I watched it for the first time. It is so challenging, it is a grueling show for the crew, it’s a grueling show for the actors, it’s a lot of hard work. We have to do a lot of careful methodic rehearsal and repetition to make the show work the way it does. It is the most rewarding, rewarding show I have ever worked on in that way. You know, I said this earlier; it’s the gift that keeps on giving because it brings so much joy to so many people from age 5 to 95. 

Kelly: I like it! The show is The Play That Goes Wrong, April 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. Thank you Matt DiCarlo, tour director for the national tour, for being with us today, and hopefully we’ll see you in April, maybe?  

Matt: Yes, you absolutely will! Thank you so much and have a great day! 
 

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