Pianist/singer/songwriter Jim Brickman spent the holiday season on the road, with a concert of seasonal music tied to the release of his Grammy Award-nominated album, Peace. Out with him was LD Andrew Richter, who supplied Brickman with a romantic-looking design, filled with deep color and chiaroscuro effects.
“[Brickman] wanted really saturated colors,” says Richter. “His previous tour had lots of blues and greens and he wanted to get away from that.” As a result, the LD says his work leaned toward “brighter ambers, yellows, deep indigos, anything that pulled toward the heavy saturated range. Of course, it was a Christmas tour, which also leads you to reds and greens.”
Richter also designed the setting, which featured a series of soft goods, including tall banners, and star-shaped pieces, which provided an effective canvas for the colorful looks. “I originally put some gobo looks on there, too, but, with the [Main Light] fiber optic curtain behind them, it got to be way too cluttered.” The LD's rig was dominated by 18 Vari-Lite VL5 and a dozen VL2000™ spot units. “I like the color temperature of VL5s, their incandescence, and, also, the speed of their pan and tilt is a little smoother,” he says, adding, “I like the colors in the VL2000.” Many units were hung in low and side positions: “For several years, I lit a lot of dance,” he says. “Also, Jim was used to seeing a lot of floor fixtures lighting large scenic pieces, and I wanted to mix things up a bit. We were going into smaller or mid-sized theatre, so flying in a front-of-house truss wasn't an option. So we added the front tree positions at a lower level.”
The Vari*Lite gear had more advantages, Richter says. “The ease of setup with the VL5 was the key,” he adds, noting that fixture's Smart Repeater™ processing unit means “you have one cable running to the fixture with data and power, which means two cables running up the truss instead of five or six.” Another big issue was silence: “Jim is really sensitive to the sound of lighting fixtures. They will distract him during a show. He has several solo numbers and we really had to mask rotating gobos. When a unit's color or gobo would change, he would hear it and look right at it.”
Brickman's music draws on a mixture of pop sensibilities, so in cueing the numbers, Richter says he kept in mind the idea that “the music takes you from one location to another. You hear the transitions — it's not a verse-chorus-repeat structure, it's a constant buildup to the climax of a song. I felt myself listening to the nuances of the music a lot more closely, just to hear where the cues should come.” He adds that the Christmas music portion of the show “had medleys, and it was interesting to listen for those transitions, because they could change any night. I'd listen for certain points that he would hit repeatedly, in order to get to the next transition.”
Control was handled by a High End Systems Hog PC, with Wings. “We had a Hog II on standby,” says Richter, “but, on the second day of programming, we decided the Hog PC was okay — but you have to use the Wing. We ran Windows XP Pro on the laptop — we had a backup laptop and never used it.”
One critical aspect of the process, says Richter, was “the use of WYSIWYG in both the design and programming. With Jim's busy schedule — and budgetary restraints — the ability to render scenic mockups for him was a critical time and money-saver. It also allowed for a online dialogue between Jim and myself.”
WYSIWYG was important because much of the pre-production period in the theatre was taken up with rehearsals: “This forced a scenario of programming at night in the hotel with WYG, going to the theatre in the daytime to the set the results in an artist rehearsal, and, weeks later [in Milwaukee], adding timing and masking to a recording of these rehearsals — which would have been impossible without WYSIWYG.”
Equipment, which also included 18 ETC Source Fours, four GAM Film/FX units, one Reel EFX DF-50 hazer, and an ETC Sensor 48-way rack, was supplied by Clearwing. Production manager was David Panscik. The Jim Brickman tour ended in early January. His Valentine tour starts at the top of this month. Maybe when he goes out, he'll have a Grammy to show off, too.