Lady Gaga played her last of four New York shows Sunday night at Radio City Music Hall, with just one more date tonight on this leg of her Monster Ball tour before she "throws away this stage and gets a new one," for her upcoming arena tour, as the artist announced from her piano bench. The boxed perspective set, lined with tapering walls of Nocturne V-Lite LED video screens, was designed by Es Devlin and built by Tait Towers, complete with lots of moving parts.
Forcing the perspective further is a sloped floor, while cross-stage travellators expand the horizontal dimension. A self-propelled set truck moves various objects from the back to the forestage, usually including the artist herself, not least of which is a huge gyroscope. "We had to approach this from two new angles," says James "Winky" Fairorth, president of Tait Towers. "The gyro was a completely new moving object to conjure with; you don't want to underestimate the forces at work when that thing is spinning."
Devlin's design was strongly influenced by Lady Gaga and her team. "She has an amazing team around her," says Devlin. "Willow Peron, her creative director, had a very clear vision of what was wanted, and later Lori Anne Gibson, her choreographer, also influenced design, so in that respect, the set design evolution always had strong currents running through it, as well as her own ideas. Watch her videos, and you soon recognize powerful contrasts; that schizophrenic nature inhabits the set. It's halfway between chaos and that purity."
Devlin also calls Tait, "an amazing company—a complete Rolls Royce experience. Not only do they accommodate, they suggest...They will come up with much more about realizing your show. Winky thinks about every aspect, costume, dancers, video; he's really enthusiastic about it all."
There are potent forces at work here; the Monster Ball is a tour not to be missed. As Devlin concluded, "What I'm trying to do is bring to bear what I do in the opera for this world of concerts. I print out the lyrics and work from what is a collage of songs and ask the question, how can I find a through- line with this? The aim is to make the images connect; to get away from 'this is the pink song'; 'this is the song with balloons'. To give a show a beginning, middle and end. With every show I try to turn it into an opera, each time I fail of course, but each time I'm failing better."
Word is that Roy Bennett is working on the new design for the changeover to the arena leg and that Tait Towers is already involved in that build as well. Stay tuned for more on this tour when it continues next month.