A new theatrical musical show opens at the London Palladium with a set of LED screens and projection surfaces conceived by Stufish
Celebrating the centenary of Frank Sinatra's birth and 65 years since his first UK concert at the London Palladium, Sinatra: The Man and His Music tells the story of the singer's life through a selection of his greatest songs, supported by a 24-piece live band, dancers, and the man himself. Well, almost... Frank Sinatra has been brought back to life on various video surfaces, LED screens and projection surfaces, dreamt up by London-based architecture practice and set designer Stufish. At points it almost appears as if Sinatra is up on that stage again, back from the dead, charmingly looking into the audience, moving around the stage and smiling back at his band.
The biggest challenge for Stufish, who has created set and stage designs for the likes of The Rolling Stones, Robbie Williams and Lady Gaga, was bringing to life a dead person. Rather than classical 'set' changes or a group of performers attempting to mimic him, movable screens project black and white archival footage of the singer performing, constantly moving and in flux. The accompanying music has been taken out and his voice paired with a live orchestra that are raised up at the back of the stage to bring them in line with the Royal Circle above the stalls.
These screens can be used individually or all together in myriad configurations - some surfaces, such as the nine, 9m-high roll drops are made from gauze-like material, and depending on the lighting and projection can appear either transparent or opaque to create a solid backdrop cyclorama. LED panels beneath the orchestra can pivot and turn, changing from padded, luxurious, 'Sinatra Blue' deep button upholstered panels to video screens. They also enable dancers to move in and out of the stage, as if they were jumping in and out of Sinatra's world.
Says the producer of this show, James Sanna: 'It all started with the Sinatra family being kind enough to let us go into their archives. We made an amazing discovery of material and the core of the show is a 35mm film Sinatra commissioned in the late Fifties. Frank paid for a 35mm camera to film him performing; he is singing virtually a cappella with only his piano player.'
The technicalities and modern day trickery aside, for the audience at least, it almost seems like you're back at that 1950 concert - a brilliant illusion. As his daughter Nancy Sinatra says: 'There are generations of people who keep saying, "One of my main regrets in my life is that I never got to see him. I love him. I love his music". Well, this is about as close as they are going to get.'