BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — A Bridgeport construction firm embraces its slogan "All The World's A Stage," building everything from a grand staircase for Broadway's "Nice Work If You Can Get It" to the catwalks for the "Victoria's Secret Fashion Show" to Captain Hook's Jolly Roger pirate ship on "Peter Pan Live!"
Those sets were all designed and built in a production warehouse in central Bridgeport, home to Global Scenic Services Inc. The company provides scenery design, automation, and manufacturing services for theater, fashion shows, TV shows and other special events and venues around the world.
Over the past 10 years, GSSI has grown from eight to 48 employees and operates from a new 45,000-square-foot-production facility in Bridgeport.
The GSSI portfolio includes "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and "Hand to God." Currently, three major projects are underway, Director of Operations Matt Maraffi told Daily Voice.
For Broadway, production is in the works for "Arthur Miller's The Price," which will open at the American Airlines Theatre in March. Off Broadway, the company is designing for "Everybody" at the Signature Theatre in New York City, and the stage and props will be constructed for a national tour for the the American Ballet Theatre's new work, "Whipped Cream."
Maraffi began his career as a scenic designer/production carpenter and freelanced for 14 years on Broadway, in films and in regional theater.
"I traveled with the international tour of 'Rent' through over 10 countries. In 2006, Warren Katz created Global Scenic Services, and I joined the team as the master carpenter," he said.
"After a year on the floor, Warren asked that I join the executive team and in 2007 I took on the role of director of operations. Currently, we have upwards of 45 employees working in the GSSI shop as carpenters, welders, and painters," Maraffi said.
The company has built the scenery for the "Victoria's Secret Fashion Show" since 2010, though not this past season because the show was produced in Paris.
Maraffi said some projects are done on strict deadlines, recounting one that was produced in under a week, a 14-foot pink dog covered in glitter that Katy Perry rode as she entering the stage for the "Victoria's Secret Fashion Show" in 2010.
"For Victoria’s Secret, we built runways, staging and some incredible scenic pieces like the ski chalet from 2015," he said.
The company has a roster of repeat clients due to its reputation for quality work and consistency in meeting deadlines and budgets, Maraffi said.
"Word-of-mouth from these clients lead to referrals to new and exciting projects."
Despite the challenges faced by working in the fast-paced world of entertainment, it has its rewards, he said.
Among these are collaborating on different projects every day, with artists and designers "of all types" who look at projects from different points of view," Maraffi said.
Among the challenges are meeting strict deadlines, such as a 72-hour lead time just last month to deliver a special set for "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon."
"We created an elaborate, multi-colored translucent curtain for a performance by The Weeknd on Thanksgiving night," he said.
Another perk of the work is meeting entertainers and theater people.
"Many Broadway shows bring the creative teams to GSSI to see the project and the automated scenery before it loads into the theater," Maraffi said.
"For the Broadway play, 'Nice Work If You Can Get It,' Matthew Broderick had to slide down a grand staircase railing. We built the set and then Matthew came to us in Bridgeport to rehearse."
Recently, GSSI set up a new management structure after the death of CEO and owner Warren Katz in October. James "Jim" Malski was appointed acting president to oversee day-to-day operations and the growth of the company.
Click here for more information on Global Scenic Services Inc. in Bridgeport.