Tigz Productions staged a hugely technically ambitious production of Queen’s blockbuster musical We Will Rock You at the Sundial Theatre in Cirencester, England featuring 37 Robe moving heads and Anolis LED lighting in a show stopping design.
Tigz’ Andy Webb directed and produced the work as well as creating the lighting design. His aim was to make it “Every bit as memorable as any West End production,” in the context of the space and place.
Webb is also technical manager of the Sundial Theatre, and they have invested in Robe moving lights as part of the house rig (Wash 250 XTs and MS Zoom 250 XTs) which have been a great asset and are used in all types of student productions.
For We Will Rock You, he boosted the Robe content of the rig by hiring in additional moving lights from Bath-based rental house, Enlightened.
The We Will Rock You story started back in September 2006, when Queen Theatrical licensed the amateur rights for the show, and Webb jumped at the opportunity of producing it at the Sundial.
He saw it seven times in London and once in Las Vegas, and says, “It must be every technician’s dream to recreate this show in their own way—there are so many opportunities to push the envelope. Having worked here [at the Sundial] for some time, I know the space well, and this was the ideal show with which to push the boundaries of what we could achieve in terms of production values”.
His technical team includes 11 BTEC Technical Theatre students at Cirencester College, all dedicated to excellence and keen to gain experience.
Webb started auditioning for the 25 cast members in November. He wanted to offer lead opportunities to young people and to create a vibrant company on both production and performance fronts to deliver the work.
Webb also undertook the show’s set design which was stark, raw, and relatively minimalist, leaving plenty scope for lighting to fill any imaginative gaps—with fixtures rigged all around the stage at high and low levels. “I needed a lighting rig that would cover all eventualities—from those really glorious rock-out moments to the stark sinister underworld of the Heartbreak Hotel to the saccharine tinted me-too world of the Ga-Ga Girls.”
The total Robe count included 12 ColorSpot 575 ATs and 8 ColorWash 575 ATs, 10 MS Zoom 250 XTs and 7 Wash 250 XTs. “Robe was an obvious choice,” he states, “because I am familiar with the brand and because they do everything I need in this. I needed fixtures that would offer a really broad range of effects.”
The units were rigged all around the stage. There were six main lighting booms onstage, addressing the side and rear aspects of the set that was constructed from panels of metal fencing. The booms had a single ColorSpot 575 AT in each high position on each individual post.
At the middle height sections of the booms were MS Zooms, and at the bottom of the rear ones was a pair of Wash 250XTs, flanking both side and floor panels of the set. On the mid stage overhead bar were two ColorWash 575 ATs rigged onto each corner, used for producing stark and moody backlighting, together with a pair of MS Zooms and another pair of Wash 250 XTs.
A special apron was added to the front of the stage, also supplied by Enlightened and specially adapted and fitted to the space by Webb and his crew. Above this and to the sides were two 575 Washes that cut across the stage with a nice clean side angle. In front of these, out in the auditorium were four ColorSpot and four ColorWash 575 ATs, and further out still were the final two ColorSpot 575 ATs. These were used for additional raw, harsh white front lighting—in the lighting style of the show—and also for a series of projection effects in the opening sequence at the top of the show.
The final 250 Wash XT was secreted in an understage trap at the front of stage, used for entrances and exits.
To delineate the edges of the metal panelled set, Webb chose 12 Anolis ArcLine 12 RGB 400 mm strips, which were carefully located, used for highlighting, giving it depth and height and accentuating its structural form.
The London show features several video walls, but this production’s budget didn’t quite stretch to that, so Webb needed to find a way of imbibing the set with an “electronic” look—and this is where the Anolis strips came in. “They worked an absolute treat,” he declares.
He also utilized a plethora of generic lights in the show including PARs, fresnels, 4-lite Moles and strand SLs, all of which, together with the Robe moving lights and Anolis strips, were controlled from a Zero 88 Frog 2 console, donated to the production by Zero88.
Artistically, Webb wanted to retain the essence of the London show in lighting terms (LD Willie Williams), while fitting it to the Sundial’s far smaller stage and also adding his own individual touches. These included adding some ‘televisual’ elements—hints of Fame Academy, Dancing On Ice, and other epic looking shows in this vein.
Most of the lighting rig was deliberately placed upstage of the stage action, allowing him to keep the principal’s faces brightly and intensely lit. Much of the time, this was achieved using four Selecon Pacific 80v followspots. A pair came in from a tight side angle across the front apron, with the other pair located at the rear of the auditorium.
The big color and effects lighting looks were then applied from behind. Although containing plenty of classic rock ‘n’ roll moments, the moving lights actually only moved six times within visible cues to really maximize their impact. The rest of the time they were used for a variety of other very theatrical functions.
“The Robe’s have been brilliant,” he says. “I am very familiar with Robe through using the house fixtures and additional hire-ins for some of the student productions, but I continue to be greatly impressed every time with the brightness of the 575s and generally with their reliability.” For this production, the rig has been on 16 hours a day, everyday for 3 weeks. He also really likes the color temperature flags in the 575s and made much use of them in this production.
Webb spent approximately 86 hours programming and plotting over 250 cues into the desk for an extremely polished end result, 45 of which were executed in the first 5 minutes of the show. “I wanted it to be absolutely spot on in every way,” says Webb “Everyone has put a massive amount of time, energy, and effort into this and I think that was really evident in the success of the show,” he states.
He pays tribute to the fantastic teamwork from his crew and the cast, all of whom made the long hours, dedication, and hard work fun as well as creatively worthwhile, saying, “We should all be proud of achieving such a credible end result.”
The show’s musical backing track was laid down by the resident London We Will Rock You band (it was supplied as part of the licensing package), and all the vocals were sung live.
Other key people involved in this production include show caller Gary Bowman, (a soon New York bound ex Tech Theatre student) and lighting board operator Martin Brammer. Webb operated sound for the show, using a Soundcraft 32 channel GB4 mixer, which was played very effectively through the Sundial’s Martin Audio system, with additional bass bins and 12” tops supplied by Kent based Top-Tech. All the cast used a mixture of Sony Freedom and Sennheiser EW500 mics with Sennheiser HS2 headset microphones.
The show was choreographed by Katherine Bates, the vocal coach was Jenna Monroe, and the fight director and acting coach was Adrian Jones. Costumes were designed by Nikki Selwyn and the AV by David Poulson. The show received rave reviews in the local press and pulled in record attendances for the Sundial Theatre. Demand for tickets was so great that extra performances were squeezed in, and the preview was also put on sale.For more coverage on Theatre