SINATRA UK TOUR
21 July 2008
Based on the 2006 West End production at the London Palladium, Karl Sydow's Sinatra, directed by David Leveaux, is currently enjoying a successful tour of the UK.
Echoing the original West End design, the Art Deco-influenced set was designed by Tom Pye with significant input from his Associate, Tim McQuillen-Wright. Bespoke staging company, Brilliant Stages, has constructed specialist components within the set.
The main band rostra, which carry the 16-strong Big Band, was the first section to receive the Brilliant Stages treatment. This three-tiered structure maintains the Art Deco look with a retro silver and black finish to each fascia, complete with soft black leather trim and brushed silver ‘corrugated’ risers. Each fascia incorporates concealed, clear, non-neon lighting acting as down-lighters on the corrugated risers, whilst the bottom fascia conceals a line of flexi-neon augmented by a defining row of golf-ball lamps.
Despite the obvious need for a robust structure, Brilliant Stages designed the rostra to be easy to transport and quick to erect. Nik Rea, Sinatra’s Production Manager explains, “Because we are touring theatres, not arenas, fork lift trucks for loading and unloading are not an option. Brilliant Stages therefore built the band rostra in smaller aluminium sections, rather than the larger steel pieces of the static West End show, making them lighter and easy to move. The fascias were designed to break down into six pieces for which they also created a 6-shelf dolly, fully carpeted, for the sections to slide into. This makes load-in easy in the absence of a fork lift, since the carts fit through doors, down ramps and directly into the hold of an aeroplane.”
Central to the show is the video footage of Sinatra himself, narrating his life story and singing his greatest hits as he ‘performs’ alongside the present day cast of singers, dancers and musicians. Much of the footage has never been seen before and, as such, forms the pivotal point of the show’s design.
Brilliant Stages are responsible for creating the all-important 13m wide by 9m high Brilliant Roll View Screen, a variation on the traditional bottom roll up projection screen.
Since the screen was to be projected upon as it was being unrolled, it was important that the surface should remain evenly tensioned and at a constant distance from the projector to maintain focus as it did so.
This was achieved by constructing three 4.8m custom truss sections containing the motor and gearbox drive shaft system and bottom gather-up pipe. The bottom gather-up pipe is driven using fire-retardant, military specification webbing running in slot drums fitted to each end of the pipe, around which was wrapped a Translite white rear projection screen from Harkness Screens.
The motor and gearbox drive is housed in the central truss section to ensure symmetrical loading and turning of the drive shaft, whilst a 4kW Kinesys Elevation control system allows the screen to vari-speed up to approximately 0.9m per second.
A mid-way pin-off facility allows the bottom gather-up pipe to be raised and lowered to suit rigging and de-rigging stages and also keeps tension on the webbing system - which remains permanently rigged – during transit.
All pieces are designed for perfect alignment during set up and the whole structure can be assembled within twenty-five minutes.
Finally, Brilliant Stages constructed a total of four, slightly overlapping, Kabuki drops, each measuring 3m wide by 9m high, which are dropped in as diaphanous masks across a floating projection of the singer during Under My Skin and simultaneously provide soft entrances for the dancers. For the subsequent number, In the Still of the Night, one Kabuki drops away to reveal a dancer while the remainder stay as soft-focus projection surfaces until they too fall away as the transition into I’ve Got It Bad revealing the Brilliant Roll View screen with Sinatra projected on it once more.
Sinatra Technical Manager, Kenny Underwood, has worked with Brilliant Stages on many shows over the last twenty years. “For packaging and designing with touring in mind, Brilliant Stages are the best company around,” he says. “They design in a way which makes our job easier and, I believe, are second to none.”
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