Lady Gaga’s ‘Enigma/Jazz & Piano’

by Steve Jennings (Photos and Text) • in
  • July 2019
  • Rockin' the Residency
• Created: July 12, 2019

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LADY GAGA “ENIGMA” © Steve Jennings

Two Separate Shows in Las Vegas

LADY GAGA “JAZZ” © Steve Jennings

Lady Gaga’s Las Vegas residency at the Park Theater at Park MGM brings together two separate and unique shows. The Enigma show is a full throttle pop/future theatrical set, with Gaga starting the show by descending from the rafters in a mirrorball outfit playing a keytar, delighting all her little monster fans, roaming the massive stage set. Then, for the Jazz & Piano show, she’s leading the big band in a fun diva manner, Gaga style. We talked to LeRoy Bennett (production, lighting and set designer), Harry Forster (lighting programmer and director), Lee Moro (with Solotech’s Touring & Special Events division) and the production manager of the shows, Chris Vineyard.

LeRoy Bennett
Production, Lighting & Set Designer
LeRoy Bennett had the initial meeting for Lady Gaga’s Las Vegas residency last June 2018. It then went through a few iterations before the final design was completed. As Bennett will say, she knows what she likes and doesn’t like. “Working with her for all these years I have a very good understanding of the worlds she wants to live in. She was looking to make the Enigma show something that combined her history with a new feel for her interpretation of a Vegas show. Every show that we’ve done has always had a storyline or journey that ran through it. Enigma has a very distinct personal message. The overall concept for the set was to create a post-apocalyptic punk environment that had various personalities that morphed into each section of the journey. A lot of this was done through projection, lighting, transparency, and layers.

“For the Jazz & Piano show, we wanted to create something that was an elegant big band look with a Gaga twist to it. We used a combination of a Swarovski crystal curtain upstage with a series of concentric metal bead swags downstage, and the band risers are dressed with stylized Deco music stands.”

A lot of the design process for the show was based on time and budget, and Tait played a big part in keeping things on budget, notes Bennett. “Solotech manufactured the large oval shape lighting which was a little tricky, based on the way I wanted it to move. It somewhat got to where I needed it to be, based on time elements that I had to compromise, but such is the beast in these large productions. When it came to the giant pod, the overall look of the abstract city needed some sort of ceiling piece, so I came up with the oval pod of [Elation] Dartz fixtures. I wanted it to be its own character in the show. It could be a space ship, or a cloud. At one point it’s used as a source of healing light that drops down over Gaga. This has been yet another great collaboration with Lady Gaga.”

Harry Forster
Lighting Programmer & Director
Harry Forster notes that they did 10 days of previz in L.A. before programming on the lighting rig in Mandalay Bay for another 10. This time was meant to be full production, but there were various hold-ups, which meant it was just lighting programming. “The set list became pretty solid once Gaga left dance rehearsals; however final looks of each song were changing right up until the first show.

“I’m very lucky to have worked with Roy (Bennett) on many projects, and we have a good understanding of the aesthetic we are looking for in each show. Roy’s attention to detail that even the sharpest of minds wouldn’t catch, still blows me away. He always has a very clear vision of how he thinks it should look and will always let you know when it’s not moving in the right direction. At the same time, there is freedom to explore things as you progress through the show.”

About 95 percent of the show is locked to timecode. Loren Barton (video programmer) and Forster also have worked together numerous times, and Forster will add that Barton’s precision programming means that when they eventually stitch the show together, the video runs seamlessly. “Now the show is all run from the one console and is very much on autopilot once the show starts. The show would be nothing without the skill of Loren and the absolutely stunning content created by [Michael] Figge [of L.A.-based Possible, Inc.] and his team.”

Forster thinks the Dartz pod is one of the best things in the show. “It’s a custom structure that was built by Unisson Structures in Montreal. It has 259 fixtures hung in 6×6 sections, with a few custom sections to make it oval. It’s hung and automated using Tait nav hoists.” The rest of the lighting is done by three main trusses that horseshoe the ‘US’ of the set. “After that, we had to get creative, because the set was so massive. The Tait built scaff structure that sits around the video has 110 Robe Spikies placed around it. There are torms built way offstage to side light band and dancers. There are lights in and behind the set. Key light positions on both the balcony rail under the proscenium and way out at FOH.”

Forster says it’s always fun programming a show of this size. “However, there are many moments when you think that there will be no way we can possibly tackle something of this size in the time given. And although we’re never afforded the luxury of show “previews” in pop, we certainly make many adjustments throughout the first two weeks of the residency. Watching the first show come together and the excitement of the house lights going down is a feeling that will never get old. Massive thanks to the Solotech team who not only were instrumental in building this monster the first time around but change it weekly into a completely different show and back again. Thanks to Dean Roney and Mickey Curbishley for their support and enthusiasm.”

Lee Moro
Touring & Special Events, Solotech Nashville

Lee Moro, with Solotech’s touring & special events division in Nashville, along with Solotech vice president of touring Dean Roney (in Las Vegas) and Richard Lachance, senior vice president in development, in Montreal, have all played a role in supporting Gaga’s shows with lighting, video, rigging and audio. “It was a natural progression to take care of the Vegas residency as well, from the design team to the production team,” Moro states. “It’s such an amazing show, with an impressive artist and a great team around her.

“The Dartz-filled pod was new to our inventory. A very cool element — it looks alive,” Moro continues. “The massive Elation Dartz rig was a fairly quick build with Unisson, which Jack Richards supervised and put together for the first time in our shop in Montreal. It came together well and, after the first couple of shows, Roy [Bennett] requested some more movement to it. Unisson did some engineering evaluation and approved steeper angles and movements for it. Video came together with Adam Dragosin being on the Gaga team and working for us full-time. He really knows how to fulfill any needs they have. Loren Barton designed the system and worked with our in house video expert LP Gaudreau to execute it.

“It’s been really great working with Chris Vineyard, Ky Cabot and all the Gaga family. It’s a really amazing show done with great people. Without proper planning and teams talented enough to handle it this could not be possible. We have a ton of gear for that room and it goes in and out multiple times, from the gigantic pop Enigma show to the classy stylish Jazz show. Hats off to the team from the design group to the production team to making this show a reality.”

Chris Vineyard
Production Manager

Chris Vineyard says they started the first creative discussions for Enigma back in 2018. They had just wrapped up the Joanne world tour when he was told that Gaga wanted to do a “jazz and piano” night along with two nights of pop each week. “My first thought was how to make the transition between the two different shows as easy as possible given the space and limited time frame. The Enigma show had to be an all-out Las Vegas experience, and the jazz show had to be simpler, while keeping that Lady Gaga elegance.”

Working with Lady Gaga, the creative development is ongoing, up until opening night. The production team tries to keep up and is the median between fantasy and reality. “No matter how much advance time we have, we are working up until the last minute to make sure the entire creative vision comes to life.”

Vineyard says working with Brian Levine and Phil Mitchell and the whole team at Tait is a great experience. “Since they do these massive projects on a daily basis, they make you feel comfortable that they can deliver a great product. The Jet Sets team lead by Matt Pomerantz created the giant robot that rolls on and off stage during the show. Their innovation allowed the prop to appear massive on stage, yet could also store in a small location on stage left. This is where Matt and the Jet Sets team earned their money! When the decision was made to incorporate a fly gag, the only choice in our minds was Flying by Foy and Joe McGeough, whom we had just worked with on the Super Bowl Halftime show. If they could make Gaga fly from the top of NRG stadium in Houston, we knew they could create an amazing moment for the fans at the Park Theater.

“Solotech has been amazing to work with,” Vineyard continues. “They provided the lighting package, the video projection package, rigging and the supplemental PA that we added to the house PA. Working with their team — Dean Roney, Lee Moro, Adam Dragosin and Jack Richards — is a great experience. Adam is actually our stage manager as well, and he has done an amazing job getting both of these shows in and out of the Park Theater.”

Vineyard says that what makes this residency experience truly unique is, one night has all these props, automation and effects for an over-the-top pop show, then all those technical elements need to get tucked away, a crystal curtain lowered, and you are transported to a Big Band jazz club overnight. “It has been a lot of fun putting together these two shows with Roy. Building them from the ground up with a great team has been a truly rewarding experience.”

Lady Gaga Enigma / Jazz & Piano Residency

Park Theater, Park MGM, Las Vegas

Crew

Production, Lighting & Set Designer: LeRoy Bennett

Creative Direction, Co-Set Design & Visuals: Eli Linnetz

Lighting Programmer & Director: Harry Forster

Video Content / Creator: Possible Inc. / Michael Figge

Technical Advisor: Andy O’Toole

Lighting Co: Solotech

Solotech Reps: Dean Roney, Lee Moro

Lighting Crew Chief: Athan Antoniadis

Lighting Techs: Pete “Lil Pete” Cary, Brad Brown, James Kassabian

Simon Stabenau, Martin Laurendeau,

Tour Manager: Phillip Cabot

Production Manager: Chris Vineyard

Production Coordinator / Road Manager: Alicia Forster

Stage Manager: Adam Dragosin

Video Directors: Steve Fatone, Rob McShane

Video Programmer: Loren Barton

disguise Programmer: Benjamin Keightley

Projectionist: Joachim Martinez

Video Co: Solotech

Solotech Video Reps: Dean Roney, Adam Dragosin

Network Tech: Matheiu Robert

Pyro & Laser Co: Pyrotek/Reid Derne

Pyro Project Manager: Elise Luquette

Pyro Shooter/Crew Chief: Nigel Deslippe

Pyro Techs: Antoine Cholette, Nate King, Gary Bishop (load in)

Laser Project Manager: Victor Tomei

Laser Designer/Programmer: Brian Van Trigt

Laser Operator: Tom Nasarro

Rigging Co: Solotech

Solotech Rigging Reps: Dean Roney, Jack Richards

Rigging / Motor Tech: Yanick Blais

Riggers: Rosco Smith, Johnny Stebbing

Staging/Set Co: Tait/Brian Levine

Props Co: Jet Sets/Matthew Pomerantz

Carpenters: Lonnie Adams, Peter Will, Craig Pica, Erin O’Brien, Jonathan Cordova, John Streeter

Show Caller: John “Badge” Chidley

Flying Co: Flying by Foy/Joe McGeough

Gear

Lighting:

3       grandMA2 consoles

259  Elation Dartz 360 fixtures

18     Elation ZCL’s

122  Robe Spikies

2       Robe Followspots

69     Claypaky Scenius Unicos

10     Claypaky Scenius Profiles

42     GLP X4 Bar 20’s

34     GLP GT-1’s

39     GLP JDC-1

18     Vari-Lite VL4000 Spots

32     Solaris Flares

36     Solaris Flare LR’s

3       MDG Hazers

Video:

9       Christie Boxer 30K projectors

14     Barco UDX 4K Projectors

6       disguise technologies 4 x 4 servers

1       Barco screen management system w/ EC-50 controller & 3 E2 frames

1       5.2mm LED video wall (78’ x 34’)

Pyro:

2       5-Master Flame units

2       5-Master Flame units inverted

6       Single master Flame units inverted

10     Salamander Quad pro Flame units

20     Gerb Waterfall

16     Multi-shot Red Falling Stars

75     Assorted comets, Mines and Gerbs

6       Low Smoke Generators

1       Galaxis Firing System

1       MA DOT 2 Control for DMX

Lasers:

9       Kvant Spectrum 25 lasers

10     Kvant audience scanning lasers

24     Lightline Burner lasers (7W & 3.5W)

1       Pangolin Beyond control software setup

 

More Lady Gaga Enigma/Jazz & Piano photos by Steve Jennings: 

 

 

 

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