We’ve hit a little lull in the load-in at The Orpheum in Memphis so I’ll try to add a little detail to Rob Spence’s question and Tim Mc’s response.

I hesitate to use the term “cookie cutter”, because each design will have some show specific items and configurations. That said, most touring Broadway show rigs are pretty generic because they have to work in so many different spaces. Tim pointed out many several factors that help keep the differences in spaces manageable. I can think of a couple more.

1. The physical show has to fit in the building.

If our show deck and scenery don’t fit in the building we can’t play there. That doesn’t mean they won’t shoe horn us into every last available inch of space available (like the Shubert in Boston for those of you who visited there) but it does mean we aren’t going to be playing small vaudeville type theaters. We also need a fly house because of all of the flown drops and set pieces. That means we aren’t going to be playing arenas or gymnasium/auditorium spaces.

2. If Phantom didn’t change it Lion King did.

Almost every large road house in the country has been modified to accommodate these two shows. Times were different when Phantom of the Opera started touring. The show was basically printing money for producers, presenters, and the road crews for that matter. The show didn’t adapt to the venue, the venue adapted to the show. Sometimes including demolition and rebuilding of the entire stage house or a complete structural overhaul to the grid. As a result, most road houses in the country have specific points (they are even referred to as “Phantom points”) that you can count on for rigging downstage of the proscenium. They have holes drilled through concrete walls for cable passage. They have hooks to run cable over doors. This allows for a certain level of consistency that every subsequent show is able to take advantage of.

Show specifics:

We carry 250′ bundles for our FOH runs. We also have 100′ extensions for these. We’ve used the extensions twice, I believe, in 23 cities thus far. So that’s an entire “gray” cable trunk (see pic #1) that we carry around and very rarely use. The majority of the time we will have some excess cable. Usually we will pick a corner and stack coils of the excess cable. All of the bundles are run in a specific order so that we can pull them out in reverse order and not have to dig cable out from the bottom of the pile (pic #2).

We also carry a gray and a “diamond” cable trunk, each full of spare cable. This is stock that we can use to replace damaged or otherwise defective cable through out the course of the run. We can also pull from this to accommodate non standard runs. An example of this was last week in Cleveland. The automation console had to be on a fourth floor jump because of a lack of deck space. This turned the normal 50′ run of com and video into a 150′ run. We were able to pull 100′ multicable and Cat5 from our spares case and extend this run.

The best example of something that changes on a regular basis is the length of feeder required to reach the disconnect for house power. We carry 210′ of feeder broken down into lengths of 100′, 50′, (2) 25′, 10′ and also a set of bare tales to Camlock. The 10′ jump is used to jump from our ISO transformer to our Motion Labs PD rack.

Finally, we are able to adapt to different locations for ampland by adopting interchangeable “Near/Far” nomenclature instead of “Left/Right”. We make identically populated bundles (same number of pairs, cable type, etc.) for things that appear on both sides of the stage and simply make one longer for the cross stage run. So if ampland is on stage left “Tower Near” will feed the stage left/house right tower. If ampland is on stage right “Tower Far” will feed the stage left/house right tower. The outputs at the rack are labeled Left/Right and we just have to connect the correct Near/Far mate for a given layout.

Photos:

1. A Masque Sound “gray”. We have 10 of these.
2. The excess cable so far here in Memphis.
3. Masque Sound “diamonds”. We have 11 of these.
4. The aforementioned hooks here in Memphis. (more than likely from Phantom)

A Masque Sound “gray”. We have 10 of these.
The excess cable so far here in Memphis.
Masque Sound “diamonds”. We have 11 of these.
The aforementioned hooks here in Memphis. (more than likely from Phantom)

7 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for your update and your mention of Lion King, as we have that show coming to our PAC in September for 32 performances.

    Our stage had to be modified – stairwell “doghouses” had to be removed to accommodate the automation deck, the motorized electrical battens had to be replaced (the originals had cages on top to catch the multi cables). Also the house seats were replaced as part of the city’s capital improvement plan, so our “continental” style house now has removable center sections to leave an aisle for the opening parade of animals. There were other changes to back of house areas (dressing rooms, emergency egress, etc) to make the show fit and work.

    Other improvements and changes were made for Les Miz “a long time ago” and yet others for the Disney run of Beauty & the Beast (10 years ago), and more still for WICKED in 2010. All told, the PAC and local presenters have paid around $3 million over the last ~16 years to accommodate the changing world of theatrical design.

  2. Fascinating…
    I had no idea that there was such a willingness to make major changes to accommodate a show.

    Jason

  3. [QUOTE=Jason Lavoie;bt268]Fascinating…
    I had no idea that there was such a willingness to make major changes to accommodate a show.

    Jason[/QUOTE]
    We have “Phantom Steel” in our theatre. They also cut doors into he roof to get the winches for the Chandelier into the building, and also built an entire load boarding “balcony rail” on the front of our mezzanine. I think they added more power and a bunch of structural steel in our fly house as well.

    I’ve heard of whole theatres that have had their run of Phantom canceled because their seats or the main curtain was the wrong color.

    For Lion King, we have to remove a bunch of seats in our continental seating main level. We have Lion King coming back for five weeks (I think it’s five) summer 2013.

  4. [QUOTE=Jason Lavoie;bt268]Fascinating…
    I had no idea that there was such a willingness to make major changes to accommodate a show.

    Jason[/QUOTE]

    It’s really a “market-based” thing. If the public wants the shows, the facility must be able to accommodate the set, lights, automation, and expanding back-of-house requirements.

    Our PAC is a round building with the upstage of each theater accessible from our “central stage house”. That means there is direct access to our Convention Hall stage, Exhibit Hall stage and Concert Hall (the big theater) stage. When WICKED was here, they utilized the Convention Hall stage for crossover, wardrobe and props; the Exhibit Hall stage was used by wardrobe and LX (“Moving Light Hospital”). The Exhibit Hall floor was used by wardrobe for their sewing shop and hair/makeup did their wig prep and other work next to wardrobe. The presenter had to pay for both the Concert Hall and Exhibit Hall, and some additional fee for tying up the Convention Hall stage, although some events still used the apron and orchestra pit cover as stage area. The local presenter also had to pay for 24/7 security from move in to last truck out.

  5. A “jump” is an overhead platform along the side of a stage house. These spaces may also be referred to as a “pin rail” or “loading gallery” if they are being referred to by a specific function that takes place there (cable picks or arbor loading). Many times a counterweight fly rail system can be operated from the deck level or from a jump. This week in Madison, WI, is an example of that. Other times a jump is used because of a lack of deck space. This was the case in my mention of the jump in Cleveland and this particular jump was accessible from the fourth floor. Clear as mud?

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