From Time Out NY:
For its ninth annual Orchid Show, beginning Saturday 5, the New York Botanical Garden turned to Broadway for inspiration, creating arrangements that show off more than 300 types of the flower and evoke the Great White Way’s legendary theaters. Connecting these delicate blooms to the Theater District isn’t as much of a leap as you might think: “Orchids are the divas of the plant world,” says Todd Forrest, NYBG’s vice president for horticulture, referring to the plants’ temperamental nature (they grow only under regulated temperature and light conditions, and don’t often rebloom). “To keep them thriving for a number of years requires a knowledgeable and sensitive touch, just as keeping a Broadway star happy and productive does.” We asked Forrest and exhibition designer Scott Pask, a Tony Award–winning set designer (The Pillowman), for a preview. PROSCENIUM ARCHThe set: “We created a series of set pieces where the orchids were not only the stars of the show, [but also] the audience and the architecture,” says Forrest. This is evident on a metal framework shaped like a proscenium, the arch that straddles most theater stages. The 16-foot structure towers regally over a reflecting pool; it was inspired by the gold proscenium of the Walter Kerr Theatre, one of Pask’s favorite places to work. (He’s currently designing the set for The House of Blue Leaves, starring Ben Stiller and Edie Falco, which begins previews at the theater on April 4.)
The flowers: The structure is festooned with common varieties of the flower, including moth and pansy orchids. A ten-foot-wide bank of moth, pansy and cane blooms—ranging from white to magenta in hue—lie across the center of the pool. “In an impressionistic way, this is meant to be the cast assembled onstage in a large production,” Forrest explains.
The set: The second set was inspired by a photo, taken in the early 20th century, of a column-lined backstage area at the New Amsterdam Theatre (currently home to Mary Poppins). Hundreds of orchids cover a metal framework that shapes six pairs of columns, which are connected by a series of crisscrossing, flower-adorned arches overhead. “It gives the feeling of being enclosed in this tunnel of orchids,” says Forrest.
The flowers: “I wanted to play with the theme of the diva and backup singers,” Pask says. Common varieties of orchids (moth, pansy, cane, etc.) are entwined around the columns and arches; meanwhile, a single rare, exotic species is prominently featured in an oval frame on the body of each column. Visitors may see species such as the South American slipper and the Darwin’s Star, a variety named for its six-pointed petals. THE CHANDELIERThe set: After walking under the promenade, visitors will enter a room that features an enormous chandelier made from hundreds of orchids. Pask’s creation is the product of many influences, including the Art Deco light fixture that bedecks the auditorium of the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on West 45th Street (where How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying begins previews on Saturday 26). Theaterphiles can also check out an accompanying miniexhibit of caricatures by Hirschfeld himself, the artist best known for his portraits of such Broadway talents as Julie Andrews, Carol Channing and Arthur Miller. The flowers: Moth, cane and Dancing Lady orchids (named for the ruffled edges of its lower petals) line the chandelier, while a motley tangle of corsage, Dancing Lady and moth varieties form “orchid audiences” assembled around the space. “The overall effect is of a shimmering, cloud of color,” says Forrest. “It’s the scene-stealer of the whole exhibition.” IN BLOOMNew York Botanical Garden, Bronx River Pkwy at Fordham Rd, Bronx (718-817-8700, nybg.org). Tue–Sun 10am–6pm; $20, seniors and students $18, children 2–12 $8, children under 2 free. Sat 5–Apr 25.