The phrase "the show must go on" has significant meaning for Andi Henig and Alan Braunstein, the husband-wife team who operate A Team Tours, a division of Tzell Travel Group in New York. The duo arranges travel for Broadway and other stage productions, and no matter what happens to interrupt those travels, the curtain has to rise.
Whether it's moving an established production and its cast and crew from one city to another, handling the logistics for traveling productions like "Riverdance" or arranging flights for the minds behind productions that are still being developed, chances are A Team Tours is behind it.
"We like all the arts, but we love the theater," Henig said. "So when we go see a show, especially one we've been working on, you feel so much a part of it. We usually get to go to the opening night, which is pretty spectacular, and you really feel like you were a big part of the picture."
It's no surprise that Henig and Braunstein's work is dedicated to theater. Both have roots as professional actors who have worked on Broadway and beyond.
Each started acting in junior high school plays and continued to perform for years after that. Henig graduated from Yale University with a degree in theater. Braunstein worked in semiprofessional theater, then he landed a role in "Hair" in Los Angeles after hitchhiking to the city with ambitions of rock 'n' roll stardom.
The two met in 1980 working as Santa's elves on a commercial. There was a spark between them, but Henig was touring at the time and on the road quite often. Four years later they met again when they had roles in a production of "Oliver!" starring Patti LuPone. The actor playing Henig's on-stage love interest was fired, and two days later, Braunstein showed up to replace him.
"When you come in that way and you replace somebody who's been fired, people kind of get afraid of you because they might be next on the list," Henig said. "So I took him under my wing, and we lived happily ever after. The show got terrible reviews, unfortunately."
Alan Braunstein performing in a late-1960s production of “Hair” in Los Angeles.
Love of travel turned into business
Around 30 years ago, Braunstein hatched the idea for A Team Tours. Neither he nor Henig had any experience in the industry, but they both loved to travel and decided to try out careers as part-time travel agents.
Longtime Broadway producer Rocco Landesman, then the president of Jujamcyn Theaters (one of a handful of companies that own most Broadway theaters) opened his Rolodex for the duo, Henig said, and helped get them started with introductions.
"It started to take over our lives, and really, theater had to take a back seat," Henig said.
Tzell chairman Barry Liben was instrumental in helping A Team become what it is today. The couple met him early in their travel careers, and he brought them into the Tzell fold. Henig has been with the agency for more than 25 years and has learned a great deal from Liben, she said, including the importance of relationships with clients and suppliers.
One of Henig's favorite parts of the job is seeing a show from its conception to opening night. Often, she and Braunstein will get a call requesting airline tickets, but they won't know yet what it's for, as the show is still in development.
For example, she said, they facilitated travel for the production of "The Last Ship," an original musical inspired by the musician Sting's childhood.
A Team Tours started getting calls asking for tickets to send people to an odd part of England.
"So you'd bring over the musical director, a set designer, somebody they were interested in, maybe a performer," Henig said. Then it dawned on them: Sting had a home there, and they were working on a new musical in development.
Henig and Braunstein at opening night of the first national tour of “Hamilton” in San Francisco.
Part of the show
A Team Tours deals with a lot of moving pieces. The agency handles travel for a number of producers and theater owners in addition to roving productions, so days when lots of travelers are affected by delays — like this winter's bursts of extreme cold — can be trying. For example, Henig and Braunstein have been working on the tour of "Chicago," which has been on the road for some time now. There are times when performers fly and perform on the same day.
"If there's bad weather, you really have to do some good tap dancing to be able to get them from point A to point B," Henig said.
"Hamilton" is a particular favorite of Henig's. A Team Tours just helped move the production to Puerto Rico, which came with an unusual set of challenges. Airlift wasn't great to start with, compounded by a number of holiday travelers headed from New York to the island. The weather around the holidays was also a challenge.
But, Henig said, it's just another day in the life for A Team Tours. They dealt with the issues as they came and enjoyed a trip to the island to see the show themselves.
Another of Henig's favorites is "Come From Away," a musical set in Gander, Newfoundland, during the week after 9/11 when dozens of planes were grounded there. Gander residents housed and fed thousands of stranded travelers, and the musical tells that story. Many of the people working on the show were sent to Gander to see what it was like and to meet the residents.
The airport there is small, which made it difficult to arrange travel, Henig said, but they got the job done. It came full circle on opening night, when the producers flew in Gander residents to see the show on Broadway. Henig sat next to one such resident that evening.
"It really does take a village to mount a Broadway show, or any show for that matter," Henig said. "When we look at the program and we see our names, we love that. We really feel like we were a big part of the team and a big part of what got a show there."