If all the lighting, video, water, and moving set pieces weren’t enough on Kylie Minogue’s Aphrodite – Les Folies Tour there’s also some flying. During the “Angel” section, Minogue takes flight on the back of a winged dancer, descending from the upper level of the main stage to the B-stage.
“If there are things she’s scared of, she’ll still do them,” says production/stage/props designer Josh Zangen. “She’s for the art, really. She’ll come flying in with just a post to lean onto and a wrist support.” The flying custom truss was designed by Tait Towers and uses the Fisher Technical Services (FTSI) Fastrack System. The rest of the show’s winches were fabricated by FTSI and are part of Tait Rental’s stock, all of which are driven by ac servomotors on FTSI D22 drives. The entire show was programmed and runs from the FTSI navigator control system at FOH. A secondary operator backstage monitors the system and runs selected lift cues.
Les Folies alsouses a handful of props, with Minogue first entering the stage a laBotticelli’s The Birth of Venus, atop a giant golden clamshell. “The treatment and shaping of the clam shell is pulled from cinema and also has that kind of Erté feel—all gold-leaf,” says Zangen. “Everything I do is developed by hand first, using materials and textures. Then it goes to scale studies and into the computer. The whole show was modeled in 3D, and we animated that and did a fly-around. We also created the rendering concepts in Adobe Photoshop, just to put in things, see how they related, and how they worked.”
The clamshell has a coral base made out of fiberglass with a steel frame. Surrounding the clamshell are fronds made out of contra cloth, a fiberglass material sprayed to give it a loose textural feel. Minogue’s next entrance is on a golden Pegasus, which was made by PRG from a steel frame with foam applied on top, then sculpted by hand and covered with a hard coat. “Those guys [at PRG] I’ve trusted all my life with various projects,” says Zangen. “Their attention to details and form, especially when it comes to natural forms like that, is absolutely amazing.”
Next, Minogue rolls onto the stage on a chariot, dancers pulling her down and around the runways to rapturous applause. Sculpted by Costume Armor, Inc, the chariot is a steel frame covered in vacuum-formed plastic. “The form is a Mylar overlay, so the actual gold is a true gold Mylar that’s been formed as well to fit the shapes,” says Zangen. “And it’s all hand done.” Later in the show, she ascends to standing in front of a bust sculpture of herself. “We went through a few phases of, ‘Do we sculpt it? Do we model it?’ We actually had a 3D scan done of Kylie by Konica Minolta, and then, working with Czinkota Studios, we modeled it on the computer and adjusted it to be a bit more in the style of what we were looking for,” adds Zangen. “Quite literally, we had it blown up and printed in 3D out of foam, and then it was hard-coated, sanded, and painted.”
Les Folies, as a whole, can be described as magical—a blissful show, with monumental technical elements. Anderson summarizes it best: “I think you would be hard-pushed to find any other singer who could comfortably go through all the [musical] styles in this show singing live, with full choreography and costume changes. I have always said she is the best live entertainer in the world.”
Steven Battaglia is a New York-based technical director and lighting designer. He is an integral part of the production/operations staff at Baryshnikov Arts Center.