7 Actors. 35 Characters. 8-Second Quick Changes.

By Annie Sears

Vanity Fair is a theatrical spectacle, a kaleidoscope of colors and costumes and characters—35 characters, to be exact. The seven performers engage the full range of their physical and vocal abilities to distinguish between Thackeray’s classic figures, from the stringent Miss Pinkerton to bawdy Rawdon, from slimy Pitt Crawley to his saintly son.

Costumes prove very helpful in defining each character, which means backstage hands are the heroes of these transformations. “When you’re watching from the audience, you’re seeing a well-oiled machine,” says actor Vincent Randazzo. “What you’re not seeing is the crew backstage working tirelessly to make it all seem seamless. They make the theater magic happen.”

Anthony Michael Lopez as Miss Pinkerton and and Vincent Randazzo as Miss Jemima in Shakespeare Theatre Company and A.C.T.'s  2019 co-production of Vanity Fair. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Randazzo—an A.C.T. M.F.A. alum (2018) who has appeared on The Geary in Hamlet (2017), A Christmas Carol (2017), and A Walk on the Moon (2018)—embodies six different characters: Jos Sedley, Sir Pitt Crawley, Mr. Osborne, Miss Jemima, Lady Chesterton, and King George. This requires a lot of quick changes. Very quick changes. “I have two changes that take about eight seconds each," says Randazzo. “Four seconds to get a costume off, and four seconds to put the other on. My two costumers and I know exactly who will do what and in what order.”

 Becky Sharp (Rebekah Brockman) charms Jos Sedley (Vincent Randazzo) in Shakespeare Theatre Company and A.C.T.'s  2019 co-production of Vanity Fair. Photo by Scott Suchman.

The second Randazzo is out of audience view, it’s a frenzy of flying costume pieces. Randazzo sticks his arms out so one costumer can strip him of his robe, while another takes off his wig and replaces it with another. Then the first costumer slides on a new jacket, and Randazzo dashes back onstage as an entirely different person. They say practice makes perfect, and that’s certainly the case for these quick changes. “We have the system down,” says Randazzo. “In and out.”

Actors Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan, Vincent Randazzo, and Anthony Michael Lopez Shakespeare Theatre Company and A.C.T.'s  2019 co-production of Vanity Fair. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Come see the speed yourself. Join us for Kate Hamill’s Vanity Fair, running April 17–May 12 at The Geary.

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