The award-winning Broadway musical, Green Day's American Idiot, is out on the road, and Live Design has caught up with triple Tony-winner, lighting designer Kevin Adams, for a Q&A about his lighting for the tour:
Live Design: At what point did you know the production would tour? Aas there any talk of that while designing the Broadway version?
Kevin Adams: I suspected that the show might tour while we were preparing the Berkeley Rep and Broadway productions, but we didn't know exactly what the tour future would be well into the Broadway run. While preparing those productions, and keeping in mind that the show might possibly tour, I tried to keep the front of house hang as simple and minimal as possible, which fit well with the Broadway aesthetic of "rock show at the opera house."
Excluding the 20 VLX units I hung around the proscenium on Broadway, I only hung three front-of-house movers, knowing that the less I hung out front the easier the plot would be to adapt for a tour. A few years ago I put several shows out on tour and almost everyone advised me not to hang movers front of house saying it makes life much, much easier. It was excellent advice and I've tried to keep to that rule.
LD: What changes did you make in terms of design for the tour and how did that in turn affect the rig and choice of equipment?
KA: The biggest change is that I swapped all the various movers from the Broadway production for a single model of unit: the VL 2000 wash. When Spring Awakening went out on a reduced Networks tour a couple of years ago I did the same thing. I swapped VL1000 shutter units for VL2000 wash units. I lost all the details of shutters, hard edged lines and templates, but losing those specific details made load-in and focus less time consuming and more user friendly. Also, instead of traveling with several different kinds of movers, like we had on Broadway, we could tour with just a single model of mover making maintenance easier and allowing for electrics to save space on the trucks.
Basically the tour plot is a greatly reduced and simplified front-of-house plot with no scrollers or movers and with very few circuits. I also reduced the onstage conventionals greatly, cutting several template systems just because they take up space and take forever to focus. And I cut several specials and offstage units, replacing them all with the movers we did keep. I also cut these cool tall vertical MR16 strip booms that toned the walls and acted as a neat sculptural object. The tour walls are almost black instead of the original light grey set, so cutting those strips didn't have a lot of impact on the design. We kept the small LED MR16 blinder units in the upstage wall and I added a few more slightly larger LED units that pointed back at the audience the same way that the smaller LED units did. We also kept a constellation of strobes that are inset into the set and that point at the audience. I was able to add four Atomic 3000 strobes to the sound towers as well as relocating the former house movers to this location.
The biggest change in the tour design is that most of the gear is now visible. Excluding the 20 VLX units that wrapped around the proscenium, only about 10% of the rig was visible by the audience of the Broadway production and it made rock n roll flash hard to create because the rig was hidden. I just wasn't able to point much back into the audience’s eyes. Also, I was using a large amount of restraint for the Broadway production in trying to keep the "rock show at the opera house" aesthetic as rigorous as possible so that the emphasis would be more on the emotional narrative of the characters instead of oversize rock spectacle. Because we lopped 15 feet off the height of the set for the tour, I was able to bring the overhead rig down from a trim of 40' to around 25'. For the tour about 90% of the rig is now in sight, and knowing that we were playing vastly larger houses to much larger audiences, I was able to tart the design up quite a bit with a lot of rock flash and trash. Ultimately I felt the tour design needed louder spectacle to push back into the larger tour houses.
American Idiot Tour
Lighting gear list, provided by PRG:
66 ETC Source Four 14, 750w
14 ETC Source Four 19, 750w
3 ETC Source Four 26, 750w
2 ETC Source Four 36, 750w
16 ETC Source Four PAR VNSP 575w
26 ETC Source Four PAR NSP 575w
18 ETC Source Four PAR MFL 575w
4 ETC Source Four PAR WFL 575w
2 Altman 6" Fresnel 750w
1 Arri 4k HMI Fresnel w\ Ballast and Head Cable
2 Wybron Eclipse Dowser for 4k HMI
2 Arri 5k Fresnel (Tungsten)
2 Philips Color Kinetics ColorBlast 12 TR w/Power Head and accessories
6 Mini Ten Worklight 500w
6 Mini Ten Worklight 1000w
39 Philips Vari-Lite VL2000 Wash 700w
5 Atomic 3000 strobe
6 GEM DMX Controlled Fans
2 MDG DMX Controlled Hazer
3 Le Maitre Radiance Hazer
1 25'-0" Rose Brand Snowstar Theatrical Snow Machine
36 Wybron 7.5" Coloram 2 Color Scroller
3 Wybron Large Format Coloram 2 Color Scroller for 5k Fresnel
40 Pulsar LED MR16 size fixtures
1 ETC Eos lighting console
Lighting designer: Kevin Adams
Lighting associate: Joel Silver
Lighting assistant: Paul Toben
ML programmer Tommy Hague
Head electrician: Mark Anthony
Assistant electrician: Warren Bishop