In celebration of the 35th anniversary of the release of The Who's legendary album Tommy a production of the musical Tommy is on a 20-week European tour with lighting supplied by PRG Europe.
The show's production company, Theatrical Management Group (TMG), decided to change lighting and audio suppliers at the last minute and chose PRG "because they enabled me to stay in budget while keeping my original design," explains producer Michel Boersma.
PRG's Alan Thomson and Loz Wilcox, together with independent production electrician Simon Needle were given only two weeks to ship and set up the equipment at the tour's opening in Frankfurt. In their preparations, they recognized that rigging changes would need to be made in order to achieve the short turnarounds between tour stops. "With the tight touring schedule in mind," Needle explained, "we changed the way we approached the show and decided to use pre-rigged truss."
The show's set is comprised of only two truss-like portals laden with lights and a large band bridge upstage. Lighting designer Charlie Morrison and associate lighting designer Josh Monroe wanted to maximize the set's versatility with their lighting design. Using PANI projectors supplied by PRG, they cast front- and rear-projected images on a cyclorama to create a wide-open look for some scenes, including the rock n’ roll numbers. They also used a series of red sliders to create a confining, oppressive look in the show's intense, intimate scenes.
Since main character Tommy often moves upstage on the bridge where the band is located, the band needed to be in focus during those scenes. To do this, strong silhouettes of the band against the very vivid and often changing cyclorama were developed, along with a "split screen" effect, whereby the top half of the cyclorama, which backs the bridge, looks completely different from the lower half. Exposed equipment, including moving lights and four large PAR towers, are spread around the set as props to give the concert scenes a true rock-and-roll feel.
Morrison's lighting design included many VARI*LITE fixtures. "They give us great flexibility to section off pieces of the cyclorama and project imagery onto them," he says. "There isn't a lot of depth between the cyclorama and the VARI*LITEs, so their zoom optics are needed to deliver the kind of coverage we want. They are also very bright and their color mixing is top notch, so we are able to get incredibly saturated and vivid colors out of them."