West London rental firm furnishes complete production for top entertainer.

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.

Three Shure PSM 1000 wireless IEM systems were also on duty along with six channels of hard-wired Shure P6HW IEMs for the brass and keyboards.

GLAM LIGHTING

Entec’s senior lighting technician, Lee Stennett was appointed lighting designer at the start of the project and described the tour as “a lot of fun… John is a great, charismatic entertainer and the audiences have been loving him. It’s a fairly simple front and back truss show – not large but a good theatre production with a variety of props like mannequins and bar stools.”

With a set that included Westlife’s hit version of ‘You Raise Me Up’, Kool & The Gang’s ‘Celebration’ and the Doobie Brothers’ ‘Listen To The Music’, the tour showcased Barrowman as a modern variety singer, and Lee’s aim was to reinforce the natural glamour. “My only real struggle was finding enough of the right stock because Entec is in the middle of an incredibly busy period right now. The warehouse has been gradually resembling a ghost town!”

Nevertheless, many of the current “usual suspects” were allocated, as Lee illustrated: “Despite being dictated by budgetary constraints, everything has come out looking good. We have nine Martin MAC Viper Profiles, 12 MAC Aura XB washes, three vertical Showtec Sunstrips on each side of the front truss as an occasional eye candy source and a floor package of Vari*Lite VL3000s.”

The spec also included four 4-lite Moles, GLP impression X4 Bars for effects on the front edges of the Entec-supplied Litestructures risers and TMB Solaris Flares with barn doors, rigged on T-bars to give Lee access to full-bodied side washes with colour versatility. Lee: “Our budget covered two trusses, so we have a front truss to wash the band while the back truss serves to make it as interesting as possible with a few of our H-frame dropbars, so we have different layers up above rather than a standard straight truss.”

A pair of grandMA2 lite consoles were on the road, with one as a back-up. “John is prone to slipping extra songs into a performance, so I have set up the desk in such a way that I can be ready to busk without notice.”

Lee was also cueing projection content, as he explained. “My MA2 is talking to a HippoPortamus V4 laptop-based media server which is run backstage by Fergus Noble from our supply partner Transition Video. The content is mostly a slide show interspersed with short clips and I’m triggering it just as I would a lighting stack from the desk.” Transition’s package also consisted of Panasonic DZ21 20K ANSi video projectors and a 20’ x 11’ Fast-Fold screen.

The other key members of the production family were KB Event, who supplied one truck and a trailer, crew bus provider Four Seasons, and catering firm Eat To The Beat. The Fabulous tour concluded with two nights at St David’s Hall in Cardiff on July 2nd and 3rd.

Photography © Mark Cunningham / entecLIVE.com

http://www.transitionvideo.com

http://www.johnbarrowman.com