The multi-award-winning show Phantom of the Opera celebrated its 25th anniversary with a dazzling TV and live performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall, supported by ETC and its official dealer PRG.
The lighting for the original show in the West End was designed in 1986 by Andrew Bridge, with associates working on it throughout the show’s life. Designing for the Royal Albert Hall, Bridge worked with Patrick Woodroffe to create a production with only three performances. TV cameras were brought in to transmit the final show to thousands of theaters worldwide.
Bridge says: “The lighting rig was quite different than the theater version of Phantom. It was far bigger, and a different shape! As a part of the design team, we had a clear idea of what we wanted to achieve; anyone who has been to see the original show would have recognized it, but with the lighting coming from very different sources. There were a lot more lights in the air; a lot more followspots; and lots of key lighting for TV.”
With a lighting rig made up of some 200 ETC Source Four® luminaires – controlled by ETC SmartPack® dimmers -– plus over 150 moving lights, the difficulty for Bridge was to keep the old-fashioned feel. “With careful placing of lighting, we were able to achieve this in a way that was both exhilarating and refreshing. The Royal Albert Hall became part of the show, and was designed into the story. Although the chandelier couldn’t drop so dramatically – like it would in the West End – we put a lot more pyrotechnics into it.
“Because of the lack of time we had to get in and out, we didn’t have time for any fixed-focus units overhead. The theatrical fixed-focus units were all on a rail that was easily accessible, mainly for dressing the proscenium arch, to enhance its warmth. The majority of the key lighting was from 10 followspots, which we had color-corrected, as well as lots of moving lights.
“In the end, we were doing it for the cameras – while we needed to impress the audience, there were many more people watching around the world, who needed to feel the excitement of a live show. The feedback we had from both the broadcasters and producers was that the lighting gave them a great theatrical feeling with high definition.
“Working on the production was very nerve-wracking – we had two performances to get everything absolutely perfect before the live broadcast.
“The three different teams from theater, TV and rock ’n’ roll worked wonderfully together – it would have been a nightmare if PRG hadn’t done their homework. Peter Marshall and Rich Gorrod at PRG’s offices were superb, which meant we didn’t have to worry about any of the equipment at all. It was a fast-moving production, but everyone was highly satisfied.”
PRG worked closely with the show's production managers Nic Harris and Nick Levitt. PRG account manager Peter Marshall comments: “PRG has a well-established relationship with both Cameron Mackintosh's office and the lighting designers; it was a great honor to be working with them on such a prestigious anniversary production.”
Worldwide, Phantom of the Opera has grossed over $5.1 billion. The box office revenues are higher than any film or stage play in history, including Titanic, ET, Star Wars and Avatar. It has been seen in 145 cities in 27 countries and played to over 130 million people. It is currently showing in London, New York, Budapest, Las Vegas and Kyoto.
Photo: © Alastair Muir