The success of British comedian Ben Eltons musical We Will Rock You is undeniable. It has already enjoyed more than two years at its original home, Londons Dominion Theatre, and has productions around the globe. Its first appearance in the United States is in Le Thtre des Art at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel.
The hook, upon which hang 25 of Queens best-loved hits, is a story set 300 years into a future where rock music and musical instruments are banned. But the Bohemians, led by the storys hero Galileo Figaro, have heard a legend that tells of a place where the mighty axe of a great and hairy guitar god lies buried deep in rock and they are determined to bring it back to life.
The Vegas audiences love it. And no wonder. This high-energy production is a collaboration between Queens Brian May and Roger Taylor, Robert De Niros Tribeca Productions and Phil McIntyre Promotions. And, if that wasnt already enough, the design team includes a stellar cast from both rock n roll touring and theater, such as lighting designer Willie Williams and sound designer Bobby Aitken.
The visual elements of the show, with tracking Lighthouse LED screens and spectacular lighting effects, are certainly not overshadowed by the ubiquitous Vegas sparkle, whereaas the music--arguably the most important element--is relayed via a sophisticated PA system including an LAcoustics V- and dV-DOSC PA system, a DiGiCo D5T digital mixing console at front of house and XTA processing across the entire set up.
Williams vision was realized by associate lighting designer Bruce Ramus, who was also involved in the London, Melbourne and Madrid productions. The lighting rig uses some of the conventional lights already installed at Paris, including approximately 100 ETC Source Fours refitted with cold reflectors, supplemented by a specially commissioned Fourth Phase rig comprising about 90 Martin MAC 2000 Performances, Profiles and Washes and spectacular laser effects.
Eye-Catching LED Screens
But the most eye-catching element is six LED screens displaying images reflecting the power of Queens music. We Will Rock You is the first theater show on which screens have been used in such an ambitious way. Supplied by Blitz Communications, each of the Lighthouse 10mm pixel pitch SMD LED screens measures 8.40 feet wide by 7.87 feet high and is mounted on a tracking system allowing them to be raised, lowered, or moved from side to side as one giant screen or individually.
Blitzs Guy Horrigan explains: We provided the entire video screen system for the show. The requirement was for a display that was light enough to allow movement and of a high enough resolution to maintain the integrity of the processing system. If youre going to preserve sharpness of image, you need to be able to match the number of pixels that the content is created in one for one on the screen, with the minimum of processing in-between the content delivery system and the screen and the Lighthouse screen does exactly that.
Brightness was also a factor in the overall lighting consideration and the 1,000 nits the Lighthouse screen produces was found to be a good solution, giving the video plenty of impact, but not completely washing out the other lighting effects. Lighthouse also made some specific changes to the screen for us, adds Horrigan. Like changing the color of a panel that loses signal from blue to black, which is much less noticeable, and including special thermostatic controls for the fans so that they only kick in above a certain temperature to reduce noise.
Working alongside designer Bobby Aitken is associate sound designer and production engineer David Patridge, who has worked with Aitken for the last five years on all of the North American productions of Mamma Mia!, as well as three in Europe; Richard Sharrat who, as the associate sound designer on the London, Australian and Spanish shows had all of the details of what is involved in creating a production of this musical; and Simon Sayer, who originated the mix in London and spent time in Las Vegas teaching it, preparing sound effects and programming the DiGiCo D5T.
Production in Las Vegas is like no other place that I have worked previously, declares Patridge. There are many things about the experience which relate better to building construction than to theatrical work. We Will Rock You requires real impact and level because of its rock n roll nature, but the venue is very wide, which meant we needed a system that could deliver the necessary punch, as well as fitting into the space without hindering sightlines, and that would cover a very wide swath. Line array was the obvious choice for speakers and the DiGiCo D5T was an ideal console choice. We had a very limited space at FOH and traditional analogue desks were simply too big. The combination we have of the D5T, D5TC and D5T-RE fits nicely into the allowable space without losing any extra audience seating capacity.
DiGiCo D5T Secures Theater Niche
When DiGiCo began to target the theatrical market with the D5T, Aitken was interested in being one the first to use the console on a North American show. Theater sound is a very niche market with heavy demands on the designer and operator, continues Aitken. When I first met the DiGiCo team in 2000 it was clear they were keen to learn about the specifics of theater sound. The D5T has evolved, and continues to do so, on feedback from the growing number of designers and operators using the system. It is refreshing to have a digital manufacturer devoting this much resource and care to theater sound.
The sound reinforcement system was provided by Masque Sound with a main stereo PA of 10 LAcoustics VDOSC per side with two dV-DOSC as downfill and a center cluster of 10 dV-DOSC. Aitken has long been a fan of L-Acoustics gear, having used it almost exclusively for the past five years. A total of nine d&b Acoustic B2 subwoofers are placed in three arrays of three left and right under the main flown PA and centre flown beside the cluster. We were very impressed with the d&b CSA technology which allows the subs to be run in a cardiodal configuration, says Patridge. This enables much better impact and pattern control in the low end. The remainder of the system includes 10 d&b E3 speakers as front fills and seven d&b E3 speakers as wedges for cast monitors, 10 d&b E9 speakers as surround and a total of six Meyer Sound UPA-1C boxes for side foldback. Additionally, there were a total of four LAcoustics MTD108a speakers as fills for areas of the audience that were difficult to cover. Camco amplifiers power the LAcoustics speakers, with the d&b speakers on a combination of the new d&b D12 digital amplifier and the d&b P1200A.
XTA DP342s (SiDD) are used on the principal performers. The use of DPA boom microphones creates a warmth due to proximity effect, adds Patridge. Which is highly desirable for singing, but sounds a bit too bottom heavy for natural dialogue. With the SiDD we are able to remove the unwanted low end artifacts for dialogue below a certain level, with the low end coming back for the singing where its really needed. The SiDDs also come into their own by using the function of dynamic compression to help out with certain frequencies which poke out as singers find their so-called belt notes.