Anything you want to do, do it.
Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it!
— Willy Wonka, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
There is nothing to changing the world if you are Willy Wonka. Or, if you happen to be a member of this amazing event team that created two totally different worlds in the same tented event space within 18 hours. Even then, it took our talented team a lot of “Wonka” ingenuity to pull off this feat!
The first event: An underwater theme
The second event: A candy fantasyland
The objective: Transform a lush underwater theme featuring a full-blown water show, and a live mini-Broadway revue, into a whimsical candy factory with hard sets and another live stage show.
The timeframe: 18 hours
The setup: The team of event professionals led by producer Sonia Sharma of Sonia Sharma Events had worked for months to cleverly layer the technical and design aspects of each event so they could be peeled back, turned off, or strategically moved and now it was time to make it happen.
The lighting: Given the time constraints, the physical layout of the space, the design complexity as well as all the costumes, performers, and sheer magic needed, this dual-event weekend was nothing short of a Las Vegas extravaganza.
“Between the tent and the water show, this was as close as I’ve come to mixing theatrical production lighting with event lighting. They were so integral,” says Images’ Curt Stahl. “We needed to make it all look seamless between the entertainment, lighting, design and production. It was challenging yet, in the end, made this job all the more rewarding.”
To design this private birthday event attended by 180 guests, Sharma brought in Revelry Event Design as co-designer who then brought in the rest of the team. Starting three months out, everyone worked to get their own design together separately and then came together to begin to create the puzzle of installing the second party first so elements could peel back once the first party was over. This would be the only way to create such complex designs within the time frame.
“The process was very technically involved,” Stahl says. “There were a lot of meetings with the design team, riggers, set constructors and the rental company to nail down the design aspect, review renderings and create diagrams.”
Images also had to work closely with the entertainment producer, Douglas Johnson from Entertainment Plus Productions. Theatrical lighting was required for every element of entertainment, especially the water show which was heavily technical with lasers, moving lighting, video projections, water walls, fountains and wet and dry stages.
FROM THE BEGINNING
At the entrance, embellished with a stunning floral sculpture by The Empty Vase, and around the perimeter of the tent, Revelry had installed hedges for privacy and creating borders. For added drama, our team spent four days installing miles of twinkle lights in the hedges.
Cocktails for the first event were held in a lounge area designed just outside the entrance of the dining tent.
In this area, several water shows took place — a short version during cocktails, and a longer show following dinner. A video screen behind the show displayed images that complemented the show.
While all of this hinted at what was to come, nothing could really prepare guests for the experience of walking into this environment.
We lighted the space entirely in shades of blue in keeping with the underwater theme. Pinspots flown on a truss system made the placesettings and vibrant colors of the floral design pop. Patterned gobos of playful bubbles decorated the floor while the entire environment seemed to sway with the motion of the sea thanks to Revelry’s ceiling treatment – seaweed cut from lightweight fabrics that moved as if with the ocean’s currents. Revelry’s Tuxedo Shade chandeliers were covered with blue fabric, and hung in groupings of three throughout the tented structure.
A 120-by-120-foot video screen displayed an underwater scene and additional wall treatments included a bar with mirrored port holes. During dinner, we provided theatrical lighting to back-to-back entertainers. These included those on the stage, and those off stage — specifically aerialists who performed from above. The lighting for the stage was flown on a ground-supported truss that held all the other scenic elements, décor, chandeliers, and performers. Another truss was installed outside for the outside entertainment show.
The lighting design for the entertainment stages and all the decor was thought out and configured so that it could be reused, regelled, and reprogrammed from the same position as much as possible for the next event … which would be happening in just 18 hours!
From undersea to over-the-top … the transformation of the space into a fantasy candy land began late Saturday evening after guests left. Our crew worked through the night and into the morning to reconfigure everything anew and THIS is what guests saw as they entered the space the next evening!
Where before there had been yards and yards of blue draping, was a hard set of this fantastical candy factory. What was hard to believe was that it had been there all along. During the day, the draping was removed, other elements put in place and the facade relighted in a completely new configuration.
“I’m not afraid of color,” Sharma says, which we love! It was fun to make this world of color come to life with lighting. The lighting changeover here included turning off the ultraviolet lights that made the under the sea creatures glow and turn on a series of LEDs that washed the new entrance with a series of color sequences. Inside the tent, the flowing “seaweed” had been removed for a clean ceiling treatment. The flooring and dance floor, flowers, and more were replaced. The lighting had also been pre-installed. “There would not be enough time to come in and install anything new,” Stahl says. “So we turned off what wasn’t needed for this look and then refocused what was. We reprogrammed the LED color shifts and swapped out new gobos and lighting textures.”
The only area of the event that remained the same for consistency was this fantasy children’s play area complete with carnival rides and games. Here, the clear top of the tent area was festooned with twinkle lights and gobos created a pattern on the ground that separated the area with lighting.
Back inside the main tent on the last evening, all the stops were pulled for the live stage show. We installed and ran intelligent lighting, Broadway-worthy lighting effects such as a scrim silhouette effect, and video mapping.
And finally … dessert. Of course it could be nothing short of fantastic and it was. A custom sculpted chocolate fountain wall featured a live, working chocolate waterfall as well as built in cave which guests could enter and help themselves to a variety of desserts.
To sum up the imagination behind these events and the accomplishment of this team we have to go back to Wonka, who sang it best …
If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Want to change the world, there’s nothing to it
There is no life I know
To compare with pure imagination
Living there, you’ll be free
If you truly wish to be.
Sonia Sharma Events: Design and Production | Revelry Event Designers: Design | Andrena Photography | The Empty Vase: Floral Design and Floral Sculptures | Wolfgang Puck Catering | Images by Lighting| E+ Entertainment | Classic Party Rentals