Video and Digital Lighting Solutions for The Cher Show

by Stage Directions
A scene from The Cher Show. Photo by Mary Hamrick
A scene from The Cher Show. Photo by Mary Hamrick

The Cher Show, a jukebox musical showcasing the career of the entertainment icon, is running at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theatre with a video systems package from WorldStage.The production traces the life of Cher by using three actresses to portray her as “Babe,” “Lady” and “Star.”  The stage set, featuring lots of sparkle and reflective elements, comprises automated scenic pieces with lighting and video capabilities. The ever-changing set is a backdrop for many of Cher’s most famous performances, including memorable turns on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and Britain’s Top of the Pops.

A scene from The Cher Show. Photo by Mary Hamrick

WorldStage collaborated with Projection Designer Darrel Maloney on The Cher Show since its inception, an out-of-town run in Chicago last summer. As the production evolved and changed WorldStage adapted the equipment package accordingly, expanding the number of ROE panels for Broadway and adding the disguise gx1 to help balance the server load, which included video output, video input and tracking, as well as MIDI and Art-Net control. “WorldStage did an excellent job supporting the very complex system involving a wide array of video surfaces and display technologies with very different resolutions," stated Maloney. "Being able to go the shop and preprogram was a real timesaver.”

A scene from The Cher Show. Photo by Mary Hamrick

Scenic elements include a pair of curved flipper-motion walls with faceted mirrors on one side and Ayrton IntelliPix-R luminaires on the other, curtains and layered scenic pieces that serve as projection screens, and a full stage drop with a laser-cut hole pattern. The scenic design was by Christine Jones and  Brett J. Banakis. In addition, a unique transparent upstage LED wall consisting of 160 ROE Visual Hybrid 18 panels with integrated LED Spotlights was supplied by WorldStage. 

A scene from The Cher Show. Photo by Mary Hamrick

WorldStage also furnished four Epson 25,000-lumen laser projectors, three Notch enabled disguise 2x4pro media servers and one Notch enabled disguise gx1 media server, and four Panasonic PTZ cameras to capture live on-stage images for projection onto set pieces or display on the LED video wall.

WorldStage also demonstrated its problem-solving expertise when they were tasked with providing a solution to a challenge that was evidenced by variable video playback on two banks of digital lighting fixtures.Symptoms included tearing and lagging imagery across the fixture banks.Control of the fixtures was accomplished via Art-Net protocol delivered from a disguise media server system as well as a standard lighting console. A total of 40 Art-Net universes per source were used to control the various features of the digital lights. The issue was traced back to the inability of the fixtures to reliably handle the immense amount of data that was being unavoidably broadcast to each of the fixtures.

WorldStage implemented a software solution built upon Waltz™ that merged and parsed the Art-Net data from the disguise servers and the lighting console. “Waltz is our proprietary show control platform that is extremely flexible and diverse in terms of its capabilities and features,” commented Lars Pedersen, WorldStage VP – Innovations & Technical Solutions.

“In this case, we added support to the software for Art-Net input, output, and processing to deliver the data in smaller chunks that were relevant only to those fixtures that needed that data,” added Patrick Angle, the developer of Waltz at WorldStage. “Rather than all fixtures receiving all data, the software analyzed, deconstructed, and repackaged the data so each fixture only saw the information it needed to see.” The successful solution took one-day to implement once the issue was identified.

“Waltz enabled us to send video content to the IntelliPix-R walls with no lag while enabling lighting to still have control from the lighting console.  I was extremely happy with the performance we were able to get,” concludes Maloney.

A scene from The Cher Show. Photo by Mary Hamrick

At WorldStage Tom Whipple was the Project Manager and Shannon Robinson the LED Technician.

In addition to Maloney as video and projection designer, and scenic designers Jones and Banakis, the creative team for The Cher Show also included lighting designer Kevin Adams; costume designer Bob Mackie; sound designer Nevin Steinberg; hair and wig designer Charles G. LaPointe; makeup designer Cookie Jordan; associate scenic design: Mary Hamrick Williamson; associate costume design:Sarah Laux and Brian J. Bustos; associate lighting design: Paul Toben; associate sound design: Jason Crystal; associate video design: Brian McMullen; associate hair and wig design: Rachael Geier; and associate makeup design: Joya Giambrone.

Further information from WorldStage: www.worldstage.com