Who is Annie without her red dress? Or Eva without her balcony? It’s the Broadway creator’s job to transport audiences into the world of a show, whether in Depression-era New York or outside the Casa Rosada.
In Broadway by Design, BroadwayWorld shines a light on this Broadway season’s stellar designs, show after show. Today we continue the series with Emma Bailey, Tim Deiling, Paul Gatehouse and Gabriella Slade who served as scenic, lighting, sound and costume designers for the Broadway mega-hit, Six.
Divorced, beheaded, dead, divorced, beheaded, survived. From Tudor queens to pop princesses, Henry VIII’s six wives take to the mic to remix five hundred years of historic heartache in an exuberant celebration of 21st century girl power! The musical, which opened on Broadway on October 3, 2021, just earned eight Tony nominations.
But how did queendom come to life on stage? Set designer Emma Bailey found inspiration in the ladies themselves. “The Tudors rub shoulders with the iconic pop stars of our time. Between my historical research into the stonework of Hampton Court, I abused modern stage performances, aesthetics and lighting,” she explained. “As a trio, Lucy, Jamie and I brought images and videos to the table that really resonated like unforgettable epic pop performances. There will always be Beyonce and Madonna, but we also discussed Nicki Minaj, Adele, Ariana Grande on top of the other true queens of pop. We really wanted a big, immersive rock n roll feel with a strong industrial aesthetic, bringing strong shapes and honesty to the scene. would have nothing traditionally “theatrical” about the design.
Lighting designer Tim Deiling was also inspired by pop divas. “The trick for us, being a musical, was to take that rather flashy/abstract canon of work and make sure every second was theatrical. It had to tell a story. Committing to colors, tones , textures and specific landmarks structures that we could elevate and support each of our queen’s stories.
“For example: Katherine Howard’s four choruses and verses repeat themselves, the same story of abuse told throughout her life, exhausting us at the end. The lighting does the same,” Deiling continued. “All the colors and shapes repeat for every chorus and verse. Audiences, after hearing their four stories, understand what sounded vibrant and colorful at the start and now resonates with a darker/eerie tone at the end.”
Sound designer Paul Gatehouse had to apply the pop musician’s inspiration in a more practical way. “Using wearable mics was a key tool for us to convey the correct visuals and audio texture for the vocal sound, we didn’t want to use head-worn mics and try to fake something.
“We also wanted a super direct and punchy sound for our all-female band, so Tom Curran (orchestra) and I made specific choices on what instruments we would like, in the use of full-size acoustic shell electronic drums. and a particular bass and guitar choices are all part of the production setup, so we can ensure consistency and replication across multiple productions.
“I intended to give each queen her own silhouette and identity while being cohesive as a powerful female unit,” costume designer Gabriella Slade explained. “It was important that the queens felt empowered by the costume they wore.
“Contextual research was essential to living and breathing the real-life stories of Henry VIII’s six wives. Contemporary portraits inspired the square collars, corsetry, peplums, lattices and tabs, which, combined contemporaries, formed the identity of our queens.
“[My] The biggest challenge was sculpting and building the fabrics into architectural shapes while allowing the cast to move and dance freely,” Slade continued. “We worked hard to maintain the integrity and quality of the design. and construction while incorporating significant stretch placements. , elasticated panels and closures to allow movement.”
“The show lives and breathes on its low frequency, so to me it feels really punchy and even through space it’s something I put a lot of focus and time into,” Gatehouse said. “Our technology is constantly improving and we are now able to manage low frequencies really effectively, controlling how things interact with the room and other parts of the system. So everyone can have the same experience. , which I really care about.”
Bailey found her biggest stage design challenge in refraining from using video screens. “A lot of live pop acts rely on them, rightly so, to bring audiences as close as possible to these modern icons in huge stadiums,” she said. “We needed impact and movement, but our stages are much smaller and these queens weren’t famous (maybe they are now!) so zooming in on their faces isn’t as interesting as Beyonce’s. Finding that texture and doing something more sculptural was a big challenge and doing it on a tiny fraction of a pop star’s budget.”
“With a range of lighting fixtures creating architecture and sculpting the environment, it was a challenge to strike a healthy balance between everything in the background and Queens in the foreground,” Deiling said. . “No one is allowed to outshine Beyonce (or so I hear)! We run a lot of our effects at extremely low levels, even putting special gels on the audience-pointing lights to soften them .
“The most important thing, however, is to make sure that each of our signals is perfectly synchronized with the music, otherwise it will work against it. Thanks to my talented programmers, many “hits” and “stabs” in the design are triggered directly from the piano player on stage to achieve this perfect harmony between the environment and the music.”
“We’ve had an extensive journey with creating the series over a relatively short period of time, so if there are any challenges, they’re more about logistics and how to manage so many productions at once, that’s a good problem for ont, as we invariably want to improve and elevate each of our projects,” Gatehouse added. “Though we hope we’ve now achieved something that’s about as polished and impactful as anything in a live setting, there’s always something one of us will want to change, and rightly so!”
Six is currently airing on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theater.