Going Green

    Sound & Stage goes behind the scenes as Shrek The Musical arrives in the UAE
    Shrek The Musical brought the animated favourite to life on stage in the UAE. Image: Shahab Nn (behance.net/shahabn)
    Shrek The Musical brought the animated favourite to life on stage in the UAE. Image: Shahab Nn (behance.net/shahabn)

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    Sound & Stage recently caught up with the 'Shrek The Musical' crew at Dubai's Madinat Arena, where Alex Joans, head electrician for Networks Presentations, told us more about bringing the comedy cartoon to life on stage...

    The Show
    “It started in Broadway about three years ago, then it toured in the US domestically for two years I believe. This show was actually based on the German production of the tour and this is the scenery, lighting design and video design that came with that. There is a 20ft by 40ft wall upstage, which is to do with having no drops; instead of having drops move in and out we have a video wall directly upstage that sets the scenes for the show as we move along.”

    The Arena
    “We did a show previously last year – Beauty and the Beast – which came through Dubai, and that show was really meant to be in a theatre-type setting where we had flying drops and things like that. We discovered that it was really difficult to move the show that way – you ended up not being able to move the drops up and down, because if you play in an arena setting you can’t do that. When they wanted to do Shrek, they wanted a show that could move into an arena or theatre space and work in all ways. So you won’t see any part of the production cut, because we’ve thought ahead about how we can have a show that can go into any kind of space. It’s a very flexible show.”

    The Set-up
    “The first day we get into a venue is headed up by our technical director – he comes in and takes the lay of the land, making sure that the rigging is started. In this venue we’re actually supported by a ground support as opposed to rigging from steel, so that had to be built prior to us even getting here. So he comes in and makes sure that’s all laid out correctly and the deck is in place, then starts dumping trucks that we have – we’re a total of 10 sea containers for the entire show. The next day we all come in and work from 8am to 11pm, so it’s around a 14-hour work day. Then we do an eight-hour work day into a tech rehearsal the next day, so the local team that we use for labour when we run the show understand what they’re supposed to do during the show – it’s a really useful few hours – then we open the show the next day. Overall, to set it up, it probably takes about 20-22 hours over two days.”

    The Tour
    “Everything is ours, so we have a complete deck that we lay out and this drop that you can see in front of us right now. Moving light-wise, we have a total of about 70 movers. We have a full sound package that we travel with and everything that involves, too. The only thing supplied locally is the deck that we lay everything upon.”

    The Challenges
    “The main challenge is the ground support that we’re being supported by right now. Since it is a ground support there are legs that come down, so we had to adjust where everything has to lay out and also where we can rig certain things from. The steel above us is not technically rated enough to support some of our rig, so we had to move things either off stage or on stage, upstage or downstage, to make sure they can all fit and work for the production. It was more a case of adjusting so the production would fit and work correctly, nothing was really hindered – we still achieved all the same looks – it just took a little bit more of a thought process to get to those looks.”

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    The Lighting
    “We use mainly Vari-Lite VL2500 spots and washes; over the stage we have 25 washes and about 34 spots. We also carry a front of house truss, which carries four VL3500 spots as well as four MAC TW-1s from Martin. We have a lot of dimming, probably about 105 dimmers with lights and they pretty much all have scrollers in front of them – there’s only two lights that don’t – so we have the ability to change a lot of colour anywhere we want to. Our goal every time is to recreate the design as perfectly as we can, and nothing has really had to adjust that much.”

    The Music
    “We have a full band for the show; I think it’s 11 pieces in total. They are usually sitting in front of the stage but, due to seating in this venue, they couldn’t do that so they had to remote the band from further away. All the performers on stage have their own head mics and the whole band is miked as well. It’s a theatre show that has kind of a rock vibe towards the end, and the music is really great – it’s not the traditional musical it’s kind of a rock opera deal. Everywhere we go I feel like we’re kind of beginning a theatre ‘scene’. We were previously in Doha and were there with Beauty and the Beast as well, and I don’t think people are really accustomed to that kind of show – they go and see concerts or things like that but this is new territory and it’s interesting to see who shows up and who’s interested in seeing the show. As we do the show longer and longer in one city, we really feel as though we see more people coming out; it feels like the interest really grows as we’re there.” 

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