Rock superstars Queen + Adam Lambert are on the road with their Rhapsody Tour, currently making stops in North America before heading to Korea, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia. Live Design chatted with stage designer Ric Lipson of Stufish Entertainment Architects and lighting designer Rob Sinclair about their work on the show.
Live Design: You've both worked with Q+AL before, and with each other on their previous tours. I can imagine you've established a common language and synergy to build off your previous work with the band. How did you approach creating this show?
Rob Sinclair: We’ve both been involved in the Queen universe for a while so we have a good understanding of how things work and a great shorthand between us. With this show, Ric established the language of the show from the band’s brief. We looked at it together to make sure it would work, and I then added the lighting elements.
LD: What was the band’s brief, and what story does the show tell?
RS: The band gave us a brief that they wanted to create three distinct worlds within the show. Each would be based on the aesthetic, but not necessarily [feature] songs taken from, three of their classic albums: Night at the Opera, The Works and The Game...So we start in the grand surroundings of an opera house, rendered real time in Notch, move to a grittier, retro, futuristic industrial space before ending in a more conventional concert environment.
Lighting wise, we wanted to move away from relying on big looks for the whole show and introduce more interplay between video and lighting. We still have the recognizable Queen rectilinear pods but we hide them for all of the first part of the show.
Ric Lipson: The band were interested in a real scenic finish to the environments of the acts. These would transform the stage between the key moments of the show to make the whole thing feel very different to anything they had done before. We also knew that we wanted to continue to expand the language of the show with video content and also find a way to have a more thematic journey through the show.
LD: Tell us about the stage design.
RL: The stage shape emulates a traditional opera house with curved front edge and round pedestals at the sides for the band to step up and get closer to the audience at the edges of the arena. The stage features two lifts that are used within the show to bring members of the band from under the stage or to elevate them above the stage. To bring a further element into the audience, a 15m (45') catwalk extends from the stage to a large B-stage complete with revolving lift.
The thematic concepts evolved into the core idea of the stage design being an opera house when the audience walk in. Created with a background of opera boxes made from video screens and light-up scenery, this also creates spaces for a special VIP experience to 40 onstage fans. The design of the stage allows the show to start in a golden, luscious, baroque inspired opera house that is fused with elements of iconic Queen artefacts.
As the show progresses, we see the virtual red curtains open to reveal the stage and characters in the opera boxes. This is in combination with the real VIP audience who form part of the dynamic background for the stage. Moving further into the show, the video content transforms from the front of the opera house, through a vortex tunnel of multiple portals into the backstage and then finally ending up as if standing on stage but looking in reverse to the audience. Live camera integration of the real arena audience completes the virtual environment.
LD: Can you describe the kinetic moments, set pieces, and props?
RL: [The show contains] lots of kinetic moments. The show starts with the front curved video screen sitting at stage level and then rising up to reveal the band and stage. At the end of Act One during the “Show Must Go On,” we see the opera house start to crumble both in the digital scenery on the video screens and with a series of complex automated screens that can lift, track, and rotate over the stage to eventually become a ruin that leads us into the second act.
The design of the show is a singular statement where scenery is blended with technology to blur the boundary of where one starts and the other stops. Scenic pieces are part video, part lighting, and part kinetic sculptures.
Inspired by Metropolis and cities born out of ruin, “I’m in Love With My Car” is [a] journey through this future city that leads into “Bicycle Race” where a customized Harley Davidson Heritage Classic rises out of the B-stage covered in Swarovski crystals, [which] revolves with Adam Lambert posed on top. As the show develops further, we see Brian May sing “Love Of My Life,” which culminates with a mirage of Freddie Mercury appearing to sing with him, and then a few songs where the whole band perform in the middle of the crowd at the B-stage. A second drumkit rises out of the B-stage lift to bring focus and energy into the center of the room to create a more intimate experience for that part of the show
Following that, there is a spectacular laser show as part of “Who Wants To Live Forever” that segues into Brian’s guitar solo. Through a combination of see-through video screen that descends at the front of the stage matched with a stage lift, we transport Brian into space on a digital asteroid. A series of hand-painted automated planets descend from above the stage and form a kinetic dance around Brian to create a dynamic and magical display to enhance this extraordinary moment of music.
- Set Design: Stufish Entertainment Architects
- Lighting Design: Rob Sinclair
- Tour Director: Juliette Slater
- Production Manager: Paddy Hocken
- Lighting Director: Neil Holloway
- Multi Camera Director: Jon Shrimpton
- Disguise Programmer: Ed White
- Laser Programmer: Seth Griffiths
- Lighting Programmer: André Petrus
- Lighting Crew Chief: Ron Schilling
- Lighting Draughtsman: Luke Rolls