Cirque, Circuses and Summer Touring Circuits

by Debi Moen
in Designer Watch
Scalada: Stelar, a Cirque du Soleil exclusive event in Andorra. Photo by Mikki Kunttu
Scalada: Stelar, a Cirque du Soleil exclusive event in Andorra. Photo by Mikki Kunttu

Liighting designer Mikki Kunttu emailed us from Andorra, a principality nestled in the high mountains of the Pyrenees between France and Spain, where he’s been working under a large tent on Cirque du Soleil’s poetic and acrobatic production, Scalada: Stelar, the Attraction of the Sky.

Kunttu, who said it’s a dream come” true to work with Cirque du Soleil, let Cirque’s website do the talking for him: “Finnish designer Mikki Kunttu’s voluptuous style and innovative vision pair beautifully with our two-way central stage. This year’s concept — with no projection content — is ideal to let the lighting design shine and almost become a character in itself.” The show was produced by 45 Degrees, Cirque du Soleil’s special events/special projects division, and ran through the month of July.

‡‡         Cirque du Tribe

Bruce Rodgers and his production design team Tribe officially launched its 10-year world tour run of Cirque Du Soleil’s Volta, an “Under the Big Top” show, in early August. It plays Canada before hitting the U.S. Volta’s production is inspired in part by the energy of action sports, and includes BMX riders and roller skaters in addition to dancers, aerialists and acrobats.
Rodgers says this is his first Cirque du Soleil Big Top show. “This was the most intense and creative process I’ve been involved with, and I can’t wait for the world to experience Volta.”

‡‡         From Circus 1903 to Live TV Magic

LD Paul Smith has been getting great reviews of his lighting of Circus 1903. The production recreates a turn-of-the-previous-century circus spectacular with acrobats, contortionists, high wire artists and other live performers. But instead of live animals, the performers interact with life-size elephant puppets (from the puppeteers of War Horse). Chris Mantel is the touring operator/lighting director.

In August, Smith puts Illusionists: Live from Broadway into an open-air festival in Germany, “which will be challenging, as it’s largely daylight for a lot of it,” he notes. Then, through September and October, he is in Portugal for a new TV show for magician Luis De Matos. “We think it will be the first live-to-air TV magic show,” he says, “so that presents a whole new world of lighting challenges, not least that there aren’t any opportunities for a second take.”

Meanwhile, to more accurately reflect the diverse projects he’s doing, Smith has created a new design company, Ignition Creative. “With the nature and complexity of the projects I’ve been involved in lately, as well as a move away from purely rock ‘n’ roll clients to more theatrical, television, and theme park clients, [it] felt like a new brand was necessary.”

Silversun Pickups, on their earlier headlining tour. Photo by Jack Thysens

‡‡         Quick Cues

LD Michelle Sarrat is out with her friends, the Silversun Pickups. On their earlier short U.S. headlining tour, they used a “modified, more travel friendly version” of her design from their more elaborate record release shows. She’s been out with group again while they supported Third Eye Blind’s tour, which ran through late July.

LD Robert Peterson is preparing for his 41st year of designing lights for Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band with the upcoming “Runaway Train Tour.” North American dates run Aug. 24-Oct. 28, with more dates possible.

LeRoy Bennett’s newest project is as production and lighting designer for Lady Gaga’s Joanne world tour, supporting her newest album of the same name. Starting Aug. 1 in Vancouver, it takes in North and South America and Europe to Dec. 18. Along with Rammstein’s recent shows (see story, page 30), Bennett has also designed the current production for the hugely popular Taiwanese band, Mayday, on their “Life Tour,” with shows through the end of 2017.

Production designer/LD Mark Butts collaborated with show designer Raj Kapoor on the “OneRepublic Honda Civic 2017 Tour.” Brian Jenkins and A.J. Pen programmed the show, and Pen is out as lighting director. The tour also features Fitz & The Tantrums and opener James Arthur.

Cory FitzGerald designed the lighting for Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. Tour, out with lighting director Sam Paine. Others involved include set designer Brian Stonestreet, art director John Zuiker and Ian Simon as video designer/operator. Eric Marchwinski programmed the show, which runs July 12-Sept. 2 through North America. FitzGerald says he’ll reveal more news soon about other projects that start in September.

LD Jeff Maker has been out with All Time Low’s tour, which runs to Aug. 7.

Eric Cathcart designed the lighting and programmed singer/songwriter Michelle Branch’s Hopeless Romantic tour. He will operate a few select dates in Los Angeles, New York City and London over the next few weeks leading up to Sept. 29.

Matthew Guminski has recently jumped in to relieve Tesla’s LD Ignacio “Iggy” Rosenberg from his road duties by taking some dates over as lighting director. At the same time, Guminski’s design for dance tour Bring It! Live is out with lighting director Scott Hadfield. Matt recently programmed for Herrick Goldman for the off-Broadway transfer of the Harry Potter-inspired comedy, Puffs, to New World Stages, and a few summer stock shows at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse in Meredith, NH.

Lighting director Emily Bornt is out with the Maryland-based rapper, Logic. LD Aron Altmark designed the
Everybody tour of North America, which runs July 7-Aug. 26.

Richard Neville, Australian senior designer (and British expat) of Sydney-based Mandylights, has expanded his design reach into the U.K. Mandylights UK opens for business in Newcastle in late July with U.K. designers Liam Tully and Tom Edwards. Tully and Edwards are known for their design work with artists including James Bay, Savages, IAMX and Tory Lanez, among others.

Keep Debi posted on your latest high-flying acts. Reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..