Jennifer Lopez

by Steve Jennings (Photos and Text) • in
  • August 2019
  • Production Profile
• Created: August 9, 2019

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JENNIFER LOPEZ 2019 © Steve Jennings

2019 “It’s My Party” Tour

For the Jennifer Lopez “It’s My Party” tour (the artist turned 50 on July 24), you would say the show definitely brings the party to the people… inviting her fans to join it in the process. Lopez, also known as “J-Lo,” is a singer, actress, dancer and producer, and on top of all that, you can catch her as one of the judges on TV’s World Of Dance. For the arena tour running from June 7 to Aug. 11, Lopez acquired the talents of production designers Cory FitzGerald and Alex Reardon of Silent House. Reardon is also the lighting designer for the tour. The lighting programmer is Joe Cabrera and lighting director is Shaheem Litchmore. We had a chance to speak to all four about the tour.

JENNIFER LOPEZ 2019 © Steve Jennings

Cory FitzGerald

Production Designer

Cory FitzGerald first started working with J-Lo in 2015 for the Jennifer Lopez: All I Have residency that included 120 shows at the Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas from Jan. 2016 to Sept. 2018. That is where he also met creative director/choreographers Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo of Nappytabs. “They are a great team to work with and have an incredible relationship with Jennifer and her dancers and band. We have worked on several iterations of shows throughout the years, and for various venues and situations. This tour is unique as it also serves as an all-out summer celebration and birthday party to be shared with the fans every night.”

“After the shows initial conception, the team broke down the show in two acts and musical moments that then showed us where we needed to support it with stage design, props and various needs for dance locations. The function of the show very much stemmed from the form of how we wanted to celebrate Jennifer’s birthday, and her long history of musical achievements.”

JENNIFER LOPEZ 2019 © Steve Jennings

As with any show, the concept phase is the most fluid, says FitzGerald. “We watched some old performances and really analyzed what we thought worked as far as staging, dancing, music and overall look and feel to really create something new and unique for this. The birthday party aspect was a huge component to making this a one of a kind show for Jennifer and really deliver an arena size party. That drove the ship at all times and allowed us to focus on the party aspect through the various acts and musical styles throughout the show.” Unfortunately, the schedule for the rehearsal phase overlapped with another commitment FitzGerald had, but as they got the show components locked in and ready for rehearsals, Reardon was able to step in and work on site. He kept the show on track and made sure all the inevitable issues that came up were dealt with and the original vision was always achieved.

JENNIFER LOPEZ 2019 © Steve Jennings

FitzGerald gives a big thank you to the entire team as well as the crew on the road who has to make it work every night. “The demands of putting together a multiple act pop tour where the stage and props need to transform constantly is never easy and this stage and this crew has done an amazing job. Working with Jennifer and her team, as well as Nappytabs is always a pleasure. Having an artist who is so focused and refuses to let something be “fine” when it can always be better is always an amazingly fun challenge. It keeps pushing us all to be one step ahead, to keep issues or mistakes from happening from the first meeting to the last show. Hopefully this will be the best birthday party so far, every night!”

JENNIFER LOPEZ 2019 © Steve Jennings

Alex Reardon

Production and Lighting Designer

Alex Reardon notes that when the project grew in scale, FitzGerald wisely decided to split the workload between the two of them. “Cory was the lead on the set design and overall production design before I came on board. But with both of us at Silent House, sharing the workload is seamless. We had a transition period of a week or so where we’d both be at all meetings, and where we were both dealing with refining Cory’s initial design concept to fit. From that point he handed it off to me, and I was on site for client meetings, proof of concept meetings, Previz, lighting programming, and rehearsals. Then we met up again for the last few days of rehearsals and the first two shows.”

JENNIFER LOPEZ 2019 © Steve Jennings

All Access really deserve a huge thank you for everything they did on this, says Reardon. “Erik Eastland and the team had quite the mountain to climb. This was a very complex build with a lot of tech that had to seamlessly integrate. They also had to fabricate a custom balloon proscenium (not sure if anyone’s every done that before). We also had them build custom brackets to hang the scores of MagicBlades, custom pods, a custom LED fascia, three tier B-stage, the list goes on…. There were frustrations from their point (as is pretty much always the case for any vendor), but they handled it all professionally, and with a sense of humor — vital!”

JENNIFER LOPEZ 2019 © Steve Jennings

It took a lot of automation to keep all the gags in the show working. All Access had a team that dealt with the bi-parting LED elements. Tait did the automation for the fly gag and the chandelier that came down. Glow Motion looked after the Kinetic lighting as sticks of LED lowered down in various configurations that looked spectacular. We spoke to Glow Motion’s Daniel Slezinger about what that entailed. “Those LED sticks you saw hanging in the air were custom 4’ wireless Glow Motion LED battens. We’ve machine made the LED battens from extruded aluminum. All of the 192 LED battens’ 41,472 LED’s were controlled from a single DMX universe using our “dynamic group control protocol. This protocol we’ve developed saves money in processing.

JENNIFER LOPEZ 2019 © Steve Jennings

“The LED battens have a triangular design that allows them to spin and still look the same from any position as they lower in. Cory FitzGerald and Nappytabs creative both reached out to us about doing this tour and we wanted the battens to hang perfectly, so we made 12 custom 6’x6’ Tyler Truss pods that each held 16 winches.”

When working on the lighting design side of the tour, Reardon says it was a very high priority to Jennifer that we create that party vibe. “I’ve said for years that video creates scenery, but it is light that creates mood. If you light a candle in a dark room, we have a vibe. If we look at some video content of a candle, we don’t. So I made it clear that we needed light fixtures that could really reach out and touch the audience. That being said, you also have to understand that all lighting design (with the broadest of brush strokes) boils down to a ratio of illumination versus effect. If you are lighting a classical opera, you are more illumination based, but if lighting an EDM show or a rave it’s far more about the effects. For a high energy dance show like this, that ratio was pretty much 50:50.”

JENNIFER LOPEZ 2019 © Steve Jennings

PRG supplied the lighting and video elements. The main workhorse fixture for the tour are the 146 Claypaky Scenius Spots, notes Reardon. This proved really useful for both illumination and effect, making them a very cost-effective fixture. “We also used over 300 Robe Spikies, and what a great fixture they are. Also on the rig were 198 MagicBlades. In an attempt to help the lampies with the load-in, All Access made us brackets so we could travel them in groups and simply attach to the truss, rather than hanging them all individually each day. For strobes, we had 54 JDC1’s, a great fixture. We also used 15 of the VL 4000’s. These are BEASTS, and as long as you know what they do and what they don’t do in advance, they can be used to great effect. For example, if you want a seriously fat, powerful, solid beam, they are spot on.”

JENNIFER LOPEZ 2019 © Steve Jennings

Video content creator Nick Militello and Reardon go a long way back. “Nick used to do all of my renders for me before I got my hooks into C4D. He was the one to bring in VYV. We worked great together, with him sending over, first, stills; then short clips for us to program with… a really great guy. The video director for the tour is Christian Lamb, whom I’ve known for almost 20 years. We first worked together on a John Legend tour… Yeah, we have a great crew.”

“Some pearls of wisdom? Always ask for what you need to give the client what they want. If you think you need a week of Previz, ask for it. I’m endless surprised to hear people say, “I didn’t get enough time,” and when I ask, ‘Did you ask for it,’ they say “No,” assuming they’d be shot down. It never hurts to ask. Also, never take out your frustrations on your team. For ‘client facing,’ it’s not just your job to translate ‘musician’ into ‘lighting,’ but also to treat the people you depend on with civility and professionalism.”

JENNIFER LOPEZ 2019 © Steve Jennings

Reardon has worked on lots of shows together with lighting programmer Joe Cabrera (Puff Daddy and The Family, Troye Sivan, Tears For Fears tours amongst others). Reardon says Cabrera is not just an encyclopedic resource for grandMA capabilities, but also a fantastic programmer as he understands the musicality the job needs. “Our workflow is very streamlined. I can ask for something, and he will pretty much have it done before I’ve finished explaining it. Equally, he knows that there are some things I ask for that may be impossible, and he’s very good at quietly raising an eyebrow — to which I usually respond, “or maybe not then….” We had a week and a half at Early Bird Visual for previz, then we were at Universal Studios for two weeks with the full rig, then four additional days at The L.A. Forum before the first show. This may sound like a lot of time, and it is, when measured against most shows, but the complexity of the show really required the time.”

JENNIFER LOPEZ 2019 © Steve Jennings

Joe Cabrera

Lighting Programmer

This marks the first time lighting programmer Joe Cabrera and FitzGerald had worked this closely on a project; though they’ve known each other for many years, going back to Cabrera’s days providing tech support at A.C.T Lighting.

“Alex and I started working together in 2015 on Nicki Minaj’s Pinkprint tour. We have since found plenty of opportunities to work together. My introduction to this project came a little later in the timeline, after the design had gone through a few iterations… it’s always fun to see a set of drawings for something like this, recognize it for the challenge that it is, and immediately start brainstorming what types of looks might be possible.

JENNIFER LOPEZ 2019 © Steve Jennings

“This was my first time working with Nappytabs, and the amount and quality of information shared amongst the entire creative team was second to none. I’d heard nothing but positive feedback from colleagues who’d worked with them in the past, and I’m happy to say they definitely live up to the hype.

“The amount of time we had to work on this show in previz and on-site with the full rig may look luxurious on paper, but in reality, we had very little downtime. There were long stretches where the rig was being used continuously, day and night. Alex and I would stay late into the night programming new songs, I’d hand off the rig in the morning to Shaheem, who would timecode the new cues and run the show for rehearsals. I’d return at the end of the rehearsal day to begin programming once again. This constant schedule allowed us to leverage all of the available time.”

JENNIFER LOPEZ 2019 © Steve Jennings

Cabrera notes the show is very cue-heavy but would also add purposeful and nuanced, saying there are definitely some more restrained moments, which contrast the rapid pace parts. “And we’re never just flashing lights because we can. Alex has an approach to design that’s different than any other designer I work with. He has a way of finding or creating patterns within the rig that lead to some ultimately unique and interesting looks, but this can make the setup for programming harder to anticipate. With more than a few tours under our belts together, I know what kind of curveballs to expect, and the grandMA2 software allows me the flexibility to setup a workflow to field those creative requests efficiently. Alex also has a pragmatic approach to what he refers to as the effort-to-result ratio. Sometimes, an amazing idea will take way too much time to program; and if there’s an alternative, that will yield 90 percent of the effect in 10 percent of the time, he’s willing to explore it. Other times, there’s no way around it, and the result really is worth all of the effort.”

Cabrera adds that this was the first time he programmed a tour that included Robe Spikies, noting that they were capable of giving him a wide range of looks — from dancing along with the choreography to making the stage appear to be encrusted with gemstones to giving the impression that they somehow were able to bend light. “It’s the most energetic ballyhoo I’ve ever written.”

Cabrera says he’s not ashamed to admit that he can get geeky when talking about what’s possible with the newest “toys,” the reliable standbys, media servers, consoles, or even winches. “As just one person, it’s impossible to know the intricacies of every new light on the market; so we all rely on exactly this kind of nerd-out to keep abreast of what’s out there. Credit where credit is due, lighting designer Scott Holthaus first referred to the white emitters of the JDC1 as the ‘hotdog’ and RGB emitter plates as the ‘buns’ when I was programming a tour with him. Since then, I’ve been happily spreading his clever shorthand throughout the industry. It may not be the geekiest fixture talk, but it gets the point across.

“This show was an absolute pleasure to work on. It was definitely hard work and a tall mountain to climb, but the results are spectacular. In my brief interaction with Jennifer, I saw someone who knew exactly what she wanted from every aspect of her show, and someone who was truly appreciative of all the hard work put in by everyone involved. There’s no way something like this could come together without everyone on the team, not only on their A-game, but also all looking out for each other.”

In conclusion, Cabrera says, “This was my first time working with Shaheem, and to make a long story short, I’m actively trying to get him onto another show I’m working on later this year. Our PRG lighting crew chief, Jerry “Hodgie” Vierna, had no small task in front of him, whipping this rig into shape and keeping it all humming along nicely. And our production coordinator, Casey Gill, was kind enough to make sure that Alex and I were properly fed, watered, and caffeinated for our overnight programming sessions.”

JENNIFER LOPEZ 2019 © Steve Jennings

Shaheem Litchmore

Lighting Director

Shaheem Litchmore worked with Alex Reardon and Joe Cabrera (including previz and rehearsals) for around three weeks on applying timecode. “As usual, once we get into rehearsal, there are small changes that need to be made but overall it went very smooth. I really enjoyed working alongside these two creative minds. I’d worked with Alex on previous shows and we ended up having a great working relationship. I learned a lot, always had fun, and the product was successful every time. I haven’t had the opportunity to work with Cory FitzGerald, though I’ve always known him as a lighting legend. When I was asked to come on the J-Lo tour as the lighting director, I geeked out knowing I get the opportunity to work alongside this genius. Working with these people on J-Lo’s tour has been an incredible experience. Lots of laughs and good energy accumulated around us. All in all I’m beyond thankful I get to share my talents and know they trust my skill set.”

Litchmore says on this particular show, it’s pretty “magical,” pun intended. “The Ayrton MagicBlades are great! Another great one is the Robe Spikie. Both fixtures have an endless pan and tilt function, but the way Joe Cabrera’s programming utilized these functions is something I’ve never seen before. It really reflects the tempo and theme of the show. I’ve learned a great amount of tips and tricks from Joe. One that sticks out and we’ve utilized the most is to archive and make copies of everything. For example, when major changes are made to cueing, we make duplicates of precious sequences, just In case Creative wants to return to the original idea.”

Jennifer Lopez “It’s My Party” Tour

Crew

  • Creative Direction: Tabitha D’umo, Napoleon D’umo (Nappytabs)
  • Production Design: Cory FitzGerald, Alex Reardon (Silent House)
  • Lighting Designer: Alex Reardon
  • Lighting Programmer: Joe Cabrera
  • Lighting Director: Shaheem Litchmore
  • Lighting Co: PRG
  • PRG Rep: Curry Grant
  • Lighting Crew Chief: Jerry “Hodgie” Vierna
  • Lighting Techs: Todd Turner, Thomas Dubas, John Norton, Robert Behounek, Daidre Visser, Cole Wheeler
  • Tour Manager: Lindsay Robinson
  • Production Managers: Chris Lamb, Arthur Kemish
  • Production Coordinators: Casey Gill, Alicia Harnois
  • Stage Manager: Bruce Haynes
  • Video Content Creator: Nick Militello
  • Video Director: Christian Lamb
  • Video Cos: PRG/VER; VYV
  • PRG/VER Rep: Jeroen Hallaert
  • VYV Rep: Drew Atienza
  • LED Crew Chief: Evan Cervantes
  • LED Techs: Matthew Vassallo, Cameron Trosper, Rachel Hudson, Johnny Martinez, Liselle Bertrand, Jonathan Masterson
  • Staging/Automation Cos: All Access Staging, Tait
  • All Access Rep: Erik Eastland
  • Automation: Zack Eastland, Matthew Garrett, Ted Schroeder, Doug Sager
  • Pyro/Laser Co: Pyrotek Special Effects
  • Pyro Techs: Steven Aleff, Rey Mangubat
  • Laser Techs: Eric Taylor, Louis “Pete” Callahan
  • Kinetic Lighting Co: Glow Motion/Daniel Slezinger
  • Glow Motion Crew: Kelsey Heisel, Eduardo Wotzkow Alvarez, Benjamin Brinton, Marty Allen
  • Glow Motion Programmer: Mike Robertson
  • Props: Scott Grajeda, Anthony Cooper
  • Riggers: Todd Mauger, Jake Harrelson
  • Carpenters: James George, Christopher Raines, Deonte Matthews

JENNIFER LOPEZ 2019 © Steve Jennings

Gear

Lighting:

  • 2       grandMA2 Full consoles w/5 NPUs
  • 144  Claypaky Scenius Spots
  • 306  Robe Robin Spikies
  • 15     VL4000 BeamWashes
  • 26     Chauvet Strike 4’s
  • 54     GLP JDC1’s
  • 195  Ayrton MagicBlade R’s
  • 1       PRG Best Boy (GroundControl Followspot)
  • 20     ColorBlast TRX’s
  • 2       Ultratec Radiance Hazers
  • 2       Le Maitre 300 Hazers
  • 3       JEM ZR44 Foggers
  • 192  Glow Motion LED battens on winches

JENNIFER LOPEZ 2019 © Steve Jennings

Video:

LED Wall/Band Riser:

  • 144  5.77mm Full ROE CB5 Tiles
  • 14     5.77mm Half ROE CB5 Tiles
  • 31     Brompton Tessera/Revolution M2s

LED Train:

  • 104  YesTech MG5 3.9 tiles
  • 2       NovaStar MCTRL 660s

LED Cake:

  • 582  INFiLED FLEX 6 Tiles
  • 1       NovaStar MCTRL 660

Projection:

  • 4       31K Barco UDX-4K32 projectors

Media Servers:

  • 1       Photon master
  • 2       Photon 4x4k players
  • 1       Frame with 8 AJA HA5 (1xhdmi->4xsdi)
  • 1       Blackmagic Design Smart Videohub 40

 

More 2019 Jennifer Lopez “It’s My Party” tour photos by Steve Jennings:

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