As an artist, Beyoncé puts on a show that can certainly be called “explosive” and “hot.” Those are also two words that can be used to describe the special effects in her current “Mrs. Carter Show World Tour,” provided by Strictly FX of Chicago, who also worked with her during her electrifying Super Bowl Half-time earlier this year.
“Beyoncé is very hands on with every aspect of her production and was an intricate part of the design process. She knows what she wants and knows what she doesn't like. It was a truly a collaborative effort with her team that helped us bring her production to another level,” states Strictly FX Partner and Effects Designer Mark Grega.
The show has two production managers, Malcolm Weldon and Alexandre Miasnikof. Miasnikof worked closely with Grega and the Strictly FX team during pre-production. “Mark knows what his products can do and will try to make the most out of it. Mark and his team at Strictly FX will work with you to create a well-integrated show and will adapt to the different situations that may pop up,” says Miasnikof.
Pre-production is often a time with many challenges, and those challenges can impact every aspect of the production, including the effects. Miasnikof notes, “You need to be prepared for things to change and be modified during pre-production, and unfortunately pyro is affected by all changes whether it's music, choreography or set pyro constantly need to readjust and Mark and his team were always on top of the changes we needed to make.”
Beyoncé fans don’t have to wait long to see the first example of the many effects that Grega and his team artistically weave throughout the production. The first time that the audience sees Beyoncé live on stage, she appears in a dramatic burst of flames and pyro. “There are four of our proprietary MKII Venom flame cannons that spew flame upstage on a custom platform, as well as 30 silver gerbs,” explains Grega.
Effects are scattered throughout Beyoncé’s set list. There explosive comets in “Girls Run the World”, an awe inspiring in 40’ silver waterfall in “End of Time”, and flame effects in “Naughty Girl” (a midstage flame bar) and “Diva” (four MK2 flame cannons, as well as silver gerbs that erupt during the drum solo.) There’s also a custom pyro guitar gag from Bibi McGill during “Freakum Dress.” The effect was also showcased during the Super Bowl Halftime.
At the mid-point of the production, during “1 +1,“ Beyoncé flies from the main stage to the B stage in a sparkly cloud. The audience assumes the sparkles are coming off her blue spangled dress; the effect is actually provided by Mylar ‘pixie dust’ confetti. Grega explains, “The pixie dust gag is a delicate and beautiful effect. It's a brand new device and is being used for the first time on this tour. In rehearsals, it was one of the effects that were really unexpected and made Beyoncé smile the first time she saw it.”
Another significant effects moment happens during the hit “Single Ladies.” The song begins with 10 CO2 units downstage on the apron and ends with 64 light comet hits. “It’s very forceful and very powerful,” comments Grega.
The production features effects during the introduction; it also ends with a significant effects moment. “At the very end of the ‘Halo’- which is the finale- there are 18 white snow ball falling stars with tails and then there are18 blue falling stars with tails at the very end,” Grega concludes.
Beyoncé’s “Mrs. Carter Show World Tour” begins the US leg on June 28 in Los Angeles and continues until the beginning of August with more dates expected worldwide. Strictly FX crew chief/ operator John Lyons and pyro technician Eddie Romack Jr. are both on the road with the tour.