A man of blessed with a multitude of talents, from acting and singing, to TV presenting and book writing, John Barrowman hit the road early this summer with a 13-date tour of UK theatres, fuelled by an end-to-end production package from Entec.
Titled Fabulous, the tour celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Scottish-American star’s West End début and the start of a career that has seen him appear in ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘La Cage Aux Folles’, as well as reaching the final three in last year’s ‘I’m A Celebrity’. Promoted by Cuffe & Taylor, now part of the Live Nation family, Fabulous benefitted from the savvy tour and production management skills of Steve Rayment.
After rehearsals at John Henry’s and Millennium Studios, Fabulous kicked off at the Savoy Theatre in the West End on June 16th. Steve explained: “Starting the tour at the Savoy was tricky because we were putting on a show during the run of ‘9 To 5: The Musical’, so for practical reasons we had to rethink our set-up, using house sound and lights. We didn’t get to use Entec’s touring systems until the second date, at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow [Barrowman’s birthplace], which I consider to be our first proper show.”
Steve, who headed an 11-person crew, had been aware of Entec from the start of his career. On this occasion, a competitive quote from MD Noreen O’Riordan clinched the deal. “I’m delighted that we are working together,” he said. “A single source production service is ideal for this kind of tour and I was looking for a very simple solution. I want everything to be loaded in with the minimum of fuss and set-up in time for John by mid-afternoon, and it just works to put all that in the hands of one supplier. It’s one phone call, not three, and Entec takes complete responsibility over the whole package.”
For the last two years, Entec’s head of sound Jonny Clark’s has regularly hired Jake Brennan as a freelance crew member. Jake found himself in demand for the Fabulous tour as Entec’s sole touring tech, looking after the d&b rig and the needs of engineers Walter Jacques (FOH) and LJ Evans (monitors). “Working for Entec soon progressed from a one-off show to a stream of work, and it’s always enjoyable,” Jake commented.
At the majority of the venues, the PA was formed of a hang of 10 d&b V8 and two V12 cabinets at each side. While six J-SUBs were taken on the road, a pair normally sufficed as the show demanded little in the way of sub-bass. A DiGiCo SD12 took pride of place at each end of the room; they operated on the same optical loop, enabling them to share the same input racks with gain tracking at FOH.
“We’re up to around 44 input channels including ambient mic inputs,” said Jake. “John tours with a seven-piece backing band, whose drummer’s kit is on the large size compared to what you might normally find on a tour of this scale. There’s also a brass section and eight channels of QLab playback running from a Mac Mini for which the Entec warehouse built a special rack. To safeguard against a worst-case scenario, our back-up playback system is connected to a Radial SW8 auto-switcher that will seamlessly flick from one system to the other if the main one ever goes down.”
The audio department carried Shure’s Axient Digital wireless systems with KSM-9 capsules on Shure handheld mics for Barrowman’s vocals and also cameo appearances by his parents who joined him on the tour. Elsewhere across the stage, there were Beta 57A mics on brass and each of the drummer’s three snares with DPA d:factos for under snare miking. An Audix D6 was applied to the kick drum, with Sennheiser e904s on toms, and Shure KSM32s for overheads and ambience. For clarinet, two DPA 4099s were fixed with velcro to a mic stand; this musician also had a Neumann KM184 on her flute – the same model was used on hi-hat.