Eddie Izzard

is a rock and roll showman trapped in a stand-up comedian's body. Josh Monroe, lighting designer for Izzard's 2003 Sexie tour, refers to the stage and screen star as a glam rock comedian. The first two minutes of Izzard's show explain why.

"Eddie likes to have a rock and roll entrance. It's a very 'David Bowie-like' spectacular every time he enters or exits the stage," Monroe says. "It's basically flash and trash that shows off all of the bells and whistles of the lighting fixtures. There's no high art to it, it just whips the audience into a frenzy and lets them know that Eddie is about to hit the stage."


Eddie Izzard tours the US in Sexie

The show opens with a 90-second sequence that combines the lighting, music, and projection, leading up to Izzard's grand entrance. To accomplish the look of controlled chaos, Monroe specified the most powerful Vari*Lite fixtures available. The lighting package for the Sexie tour included 30 of the Series 3000™ luminaires – 18 VL3000™ Spot luminaires and 12 VL3000™ Wash units, all provided by Boston-based High Output.

"He's got the best fixtures there are, and it's a great-looking rig," says Joe Haller of High Output. "We provided him the latest and greatest, and we did it very quickly. The Vari*Lite fixtures were literally on our shelves for just one day before the truck was loaded and the tour headed out."

The tour was prepped in one of High Output's three production studios normally reserved for video and film work, which allowed ample room and rigging capability.

"It's definitely not your standard touring package for a stand-up comedian," Monroe comments. "It's a lot of lights for a one-man show, and the Vari*Lite fixtures are the bulk of what's lighting the performance. The lighting is done in a rock and roll manner – not like a rock and roll concert, but like he's a rock and roll personality. All of the trappings of the production are part of the way Eddie presents himself to people."

The rig consists of two 40-foot long sections of Tomcat Swing Wing truss that are packed with moving lights every two feet. There are also two towers with three VL3000 Spot luminaires per tower. Four more units are mounted on the deck just offstage and out of the sight lines upstage. The truss usually hangs at 26 to 28 feet, depending on the venue. It has been hung as low as 24 feet and as high as 30 feet. The flexibility of the automated units makes the truss height a non-issue.

"The most impressive thing about the Vari*Lite fixtures is the photometrics and the 6-to-1 zoom range. They are just unbelievable," says Monroe. "When the lights zoom out from a 10-degree setting to the full 60 degrees, the shift in intensity is imperceptible to the eye. It looks just as bright at the 60-degree setting as it does at 10 degrees."

During the show, the lighting and projection are combined into a series of slow five-minute cross-fades of abstract images. As the images cross-fade, the lighting is slowly doing the same, either corresponding or contrasting depending on the image. Monroe's goal is to not distract from the show with the lighting, but to create an evolving environment in which Izzard performs.

Stage scenery consists of a large video screen that encompasses nearly the entire back wall. An excessive amount of camouflage cloth hangs from the truss to form a ceiling and sidewalls, creating a moss-covered cave look. Using a haze machine, Monroe creates a surface in the air upon which he uses the light beams to construct architecture within the space.

"There are a couple of cues that highlight the ability of the beams to be shaped. The variety of architecture we've been able to create in the air with the beams of light has been incredible," Monroe says. "One of the really nice features of the VL3000 Spot luminaire is the three gobo/effect wheels and the ability to mix the gobos and focus through from one to another. That has allowed us to generate a lot of really nice effects for the show."

Because the Series 3000 spot and wash fixtures use the same color-mixing mechanism, lighting designers are able to match the colors with the wash and spot fixtures very easily, another feature that has helped Monroe, not only with programming the show, but also with putting the show together.

"I've done some things by layering the spots and washes together where the variation in color is very slight," Monroe says. "The positive and negative space of the texture from the VL3000 Spot luminaires is filled with a really close color. The contrast between the spots and washes isn't noticeably high, but you get a really nice layering effect on the set."

The 16-city, 50-show Sexie tour, which marks Izzard's first return to the touring circuit in three years, kicked off August 29 at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver and concludes November 8 at the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia.