VARI*LITE Tickles The Red Piano
Elton John Concert to air on NBC
Published Tuesday, October 18, 2005
by Bryan Matthews

Sir Elton John is widely recognized as one of the world’s preeminent performers. His music has spanned the course of four decades, touching millions along the way. His latest stage show, The Red Piano, has been playing to sold-out houses in The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. And now, his stage show is coming to a home near you.

In April 2005, Elton John’s The Red Piano took on a slightly different look in preparation for the official television and DVD shoot. With a lighting package supplied by Cinelease, Inc., the video production team included David Mallett (Director), Jerry Watson (Lighting Designer), and Craig Caserta (Lighting Programmer). The Red Piano will an air on NBC in November 2005, during the fall "sweeps" week, with a DVD release date to follow.

"Cinelease is extremely happy that we were able to provide all the gear that Jerry wanted for the television shoot," said Scott Jevons, Vice President of Cinelease, Inc. "We always try to give our customers what they ask for, and we were pleased to be involved with such a professional group of people."

The complete automated luminaire portion of the lighting rig consisted of 30 - VL2500™ spot luminaires (stage lighting), 12 – VL2000™ spot luminaires (audience, back, and architectural lighting), 12 – VL3500™ spot luminaires (stage, audience, and back lighting), and 10 – VL2000™ wash luminaires.

Gregarious, show stopping, outlandish, unforgettable; all words that could be used for Elton John as much as they are Las Vegas. Together with world-renowned photographer David LaChapelle, Elton John has created The Red Piano, a career overview performance that audiences won’t soon forget.

The Red Piano takes us inside Elton John’s world, while LaChapelle creates a dreamscape dripping with rich imagery of Hollywood and Las Vegas icons. Each moment gives the audience a new, three-dimensional interpretation of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s most memorable recordings. 

Director David Mallett has also directed television specials for U2, Queen, Janet Jackson, and Cher.

Shot with 16 cameras, and with a live sold-out audience, the stage set-up for The Red Piano is Elton seated center stage with his five band members set around him. A large surround, semi-circle LED screen displays a picture montage, created by LaChapelle, which plays in sync with the various songs that are being performed.

The Colosseum in Caesars Palace currently houses two full scale Vegas productions, Elton John’s The Red Piano and Celine Dion’s A New Day. Both productions run concurrently, alternating performance dates and times. The lighting designs for both productions were developed for live performances, and not necessarily for shooting video. Therefore, lighting designer Watson had to load-in a supplemented lighting rig and work around the existing parameters of both productions.

"We had to load the new lighting rig in on top of the existing show rig to augment it for television," stated Watson. "But the best part was that we were restricted only by load capacity."

"In choosing the automated lights to use on the supplemented rig, having color mixing plus zoom control is invaluable, and you can’t beat a good shutter fixture for television," continued Watson. "We needed nice, level close-ups on Elton that would allow him to look terrific, and then we needed to give the same texture and tone to the stage that was on the enormous screen behind him."

Watson went on to say, "We also had to match the already determined color palette from the existing show."

Time was not an abundant resource for Watson. He had to load-in the supplemented rig, get it focused, and then allow Caserta ample time to program the automated luminaires. To complete this task, Watson and Caserta were given two days. One day to load-in the gear, and then

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