Autumn 2015 saw Josh Groban bring his Stages tour to the UK and Europe for four high profile shows in Manchester, Birmingham, London and Paris on the back of his No.1 album of the same name.

Supported by a 22-piece orchestra and a four-piece backing band, Groban performed a collection of Broadway and West End musical numbers that he described as “gorgeously arranged songs that have stood the test of time.” For lighting supplier Entec, it was an excellent opportunity to work under the production management of Paul Binder for Tennessee-based production company Premier Global Production (PGP).

The close, collaborative relationship that has developed between the two companies has seen Entec deliver lighting for PGP’s artists in the UK and Europe on many occasions, as Entec’s project manager Noreen O’Riordan noted. “We combine forces and knowledge with PGP in an efficient teamwork situation that works extremely well from all the initial communication right through the gigs themselves. There’s a lot of mutual trust,” she said. “We very much enjoy working with James Volhoffer and the team at PGP, and production manager Narci Martinez who is integral to the equation.”

Martinez production directed the U.S. leg of Stages and completed all the advance work on this initial European section, before handing over to Paul Binder to take on the road in Europe.

Stages is the fourth tour with Josh Groban for respected lighting designer Mac Mosier who spent down time with Noreen O’Riordan reminiscing enthusiastically about their first encounters, over 25 years ago. “The essence of the industry is that while technology has moved on massively,” she commented, “it is still a very people and relationship-orientated business.” Despite this familiarity, it was the first time that Mac had worked with Entec, which he described as “a great experience.”

While Mosier created a completely new design for the Stages tour based on a theatrical rig to match the oeuvre style of the show, the Michael Zinman-designed set – originated for a PBS TV special – featured bookcases, picture frames, small trees and chandeliers to conjure a domestic ambience. It brought an intimacy through which Groban could deliver his personal selection of songs to the audience that worked well visually in a live context.

Josh GrobanThis whole vibe was a starting point for how Mac envisioned his stylish and elegant lighting which, although often understated, was notable for some powerful moments.

For the first U.S. leg of the tour, projection ran throughout on an upstage sharkstooth gauze. However, this wasn’t possible for these particular European dates, so the lighting had to be adapted to compensate.

Spread over four overhead trusses, the principal moving lights were 13 Philips Vari-Lite (VL) 3000 Spots, chosen for their finesse and great quality of light, with 10 positioned on the overhead trusses and three on the floor, augmented with nine VL3500 Wash FX. These were joined by 25 Clay Paky Sharpys arranged in groups of three or four for some ‘traditional ACL’ moments and 30 GLP X4 Zoom LED washes, distributed for smooth and even stage coverage.

Eight Martin Stage Bar 2 LED pixel bar/wash units on the side torms (legs) were used for colouring, while nine PixelPARs and 16 PixelLine 1044 battens added to the general lighting of the orchestra, stage set pieces and backcloth.

For classic theatrical key and back lighting, 18 ETC Source Four PARs throwing warm washes across the orchestra and eight Source Four Profiles were strategically positioned for special positions.

Josh GrobanFour 1K fresnels on the floor provided secondary stage and set washing with 12 4-lite moles highlighting the audience interaction moments of which there were many as Groban has a great connection with his fans. Entec also provided two Lycian follow spots for the short tour.

Stark rear lighting on the piano and an outlined Groban may have given the impression that this was going to be minimalist show, but all bets were off when the mid-stage drape suddenly flew out to reveal the orchestra launching into the first number. It was a great crowd-pleasing theatrical vehicle to start the set.

South Carolina-based Mosier arrived a few days ahead of the first gig with his grandMA2 show file and, after swapping a few fixtures, he was ready for action. “It was a really smooth transition for what were effectively four one-offs,” he commented.

Led by Phil White, Entec’s crew – Jonathan Dawson-Butterworth and Klins Ganger – prepped everything meticulously so all could hit the ground running at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, the first stop on an intense schedule. The most challenging aspect of the lighting supply proved to be sourcing the chandeliers. It was important to avoid anything too standard or too kitsch, and Noreen O’Riordan eventually found the perfect solution through a wedding specialist! After a few modifications back at the Entec warehouse they were ready for the road.

The tour is continuing in 2016 in the U.S. and Australia, returning to the UK and Europe in May.

Photography by Louise Stickland