Ric Lipson of London’s Stufish Entertainment Architects studio, collaborated with principal Mark Fisher on the scenic design for the Queen Extravaganza Tribute Tour. “The set had to fit into many different sized venues,” Lipson explains, noting that there is a 40’ x 30’stage footprint, with 20’ height. “The back wall is the largest element, with a video wall flanked by two side screens that can be left off if need be.”
Yet video was always a big element for the show, and defined the design concept, thus the need for the video wall. “But they decided to start the show in a more humble environment, so we needed some kind of a reveal,” Lipson notes. “The idea is sense of place but not really a specific location, with a wall with posters, and lighting towers in front of the wall. These had meant to wheel around, but it was decided they were better stationary.”
Lispon points out the mercurial star of Queen, the late Freddie Mercury (1946-1991) historically played with piano facing offstage, so that took care of stage right in terms of scenic elements. “We gave the band a good terrain to work on, with risers and fake amp boxes stage left that the musicians can stand on.” Upstaging Scenic did the scenery.
At the top of the show, there is a show curtain with the beautiful Queen crest. This is made of transparent silvery scrim cloth, hand painted in white and silver. “Back light seeps through in the gray areas of the cloth, which is a Kabuki drop so it falls down to reveal the set… the crew come and take it off stage, it’s a very lightweight drop,” says Lipson.
Behind this first drop is the set with a “brick wall” covered with posters. “We do not reveal that we have video right away,” explains Lipson. “The brick wall is also a Kabuki drop, which stays in during the first act, for more a more intimate club feel. It drops at the end of the first act, reveals the F-LED video wall.” The audience can at some points see faces and other video images through the brick scrim, as a hint of what’s to come in the second act, which is played with just the video screens and lighting, the scrims are gone.” There is a lot of archival material from the band on the video wall, which evolved during the rehearsal process. And there are cameras on the set for I-Mag used occasionally during the show.
Since the set needs to move from venue to venue, the video screens are a self-supporting system, with six panels each side and nine in the center. “A dolly it moves on, and also holds it up,” Lispon says. “Ground-supported was important as we didn’t know how much space we would have in each venue for flying.” The Kabuki screen is on a goal post ground support.
“The design is as compact as much as possible, with just a few overhead trusses for lighting, and the front cloth can be hung from the first lighting truss if need be,” notes Lipson, who poses the question: What is a Queen tribute show, why is this one better?
“Because Queen is involved in it,” he answers. “There was an online competition to get the cast. You could sell the concept in different countries with online competitions specific to Japan, say, or Australia… local people come see people they know in the show, a very community-based idea. And this show really brings home the artistry of the musicians and the singers—a modern way of expressing Queen's music. The set creates a framework for the band to perform.”