Behind the Scenes of Our Wild 'Romy and Michele' Photo Shoot

Capturing the fun, awkward, flirty, eye-rolling experience of an actual high school reunion.
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The 5th Avenue Theatre, whose 15th Tony Awards-style program on June 12 recognizes emerging youth talent in our region, is, of course, also a Broadway-incubating machine, churning out hit after hit. One of my “bucket list” projects has been to photograph the cast and behind-the-scenes talent of one of these Broadway-bound shows that are first staged locally. The stars finally aligned with Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, which opens tonight.

We wanted to shoot the cast and behind the scenes talent and have some fun with it. Slight problem, though. Rehearsals were indeed underway—in New York City. Undaunted, we worked with The 5th’s communications and public relations manager Bridget Morgan, who flew in the principals from New York and Los Angeles for this shoot.

Naturally, we decided to go with the idea of a high school reunion for a setting, but setting them in a tableau that tells the story of those awkward, catty, oblivious, warmhearted gatherings.

Photographer Hayley Young secured a location (you know, with the classic gym and wood bleachers stacked up)-- hank you, Seattle Academy and team!; local designer Luly Yang helped with wardrobe (“Michele” actress Stephanie Renee Wall’s green dress). Gene Juarez Salons and Spas’ James Todd and his creative team swooped in to help like a runway SWAT team and piled on the makeup, hair extensions and hair spray, and brought the fun, as they always do. And for the set décor, Gather Design Company and Simply by Tamara Nicole crafted the balloon arch to end all balloon arches and set the scene with décor details in no time (and popped every balloon even faster, just minutes after the shoot).

Photographing this group of experienced stage actresses and behind-the-scenes professionals almost felt like cheating: When the shoot started, our subjects snapped into action and effortlessly captured the fun, awkward, flirty, eye-rolling experience of a high school reunion we were going for. Robin Schiff, who wrote the play on which the movie was originally based (yes, Romy and Michele were initially side characters in the play Ladies’ Room), the movie and the stage musical, especially got into it.

It’s hard to fully appreciate how much work goes into producing a shoot like this. We are grateful for the army of creative minds who helped, especially our staff photographer Hayley Young. Another cool insight into the creative process: While we were setting up, artistic director David Armstrong would occasionally pop in a pair of ear buds and pace the floor. He told me he was listening to different potential opening numbers for the musical. Though I didn’t get to listen in, it seemed that he landed on “the one.” The whole photo shoot left everyone with that feeling of creating something fantastic together (well, at least we think so).

If these two pages could talk, this one would definitely be one for the yearbooks, so to speak.

Check out the behind the scenes video from KING5’s Evening Magazine segment below. It's amazing the level of work and number of people who go into these sorts of shoots.

Read the story here and look for the photo spread in the June issue of Seattle magazine, on newsstands now.

Romy and Michele runs June 8-July 2 at The 5th Avenue Theatre, downtown; 5thavenue.org

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