Jeff Ravitz designed the lighting for a television shoot of the Willie Nelson and The Last Of The Breed Tour, which ended its run at Chicago’s Rosemont Theatre on March 25, 2007. The show featured Country Music Hall of Famers Nelson, Merle Haggard and Ray Price, who were backed by Western swing music legends, Asleep At The Wheel. The show is scheduled to air in August as a PBS pledge drive presentation, coordinated with a DVD release. The show was directed by Larry Jordan and produced by Albert Spevak of Ambassador Entertainment.
“The process began by making contact with Willie’s longtime tour designer, Buddy “Budrock” Prewitt,” Ravitz explained. “It was important to incorporate the look that had been established on the road. But Buddy was quick to mention that the tour was not using a very elaborate system and that he welcomed the chance to embellish what he had begun a month before when the tour kicked off. That gave me the green light to fill things in and cover a few more bases for Buddy and the show, as well as for the camera.”
Ravitz’s design incorporated an upstage truss of multi-colored PAR washes to form the foundation of light for the stage, taking a page from Buddy’s tour design. From there, the system departed from the tour approach with the addition of Martin Mac 2000 and Mac 700 profiles and washes from Upstaging, and many lekos to provide dedicated keylight and backlight from a multitude of angles for all performer positions, of which there were ten areas for fourteen performers. The Rosemont Theatre is a well-equipped facility with a full theatre fly system and front of house catwalks, so achieving optimum angles was not difficult. The control system was carefully broken up between a Martin Maxxys for the automated fixtures, programmed by Nook Schoenfeld; the venue’s Leprecon LP-2000 for all keylights and backlights, run by house master electrician Tim Donoughue; and another LP-2000 for the back truss PARs, operated by Prewitt. Upstaging crew chief Tony Thompson also operated some floor fill lights on Prewitt’s console, providing an extra set of hands for quick response to Ravitz’s level requests.
Emmy recipient, Ravitz, has recently designed television shoots for bands Third Eye Blind, The Bravery, Fall Out Boy and Paolo Nutini, as well as a shoot for Prince, shot at the Rio Hotel Club 3121 in Las Vegas. His recent shoot for Irish Choral group, Anúna, also will air as a PBS pledge drive this summer.
For another perspective on the shoot, go to Nook Schoenfeld’s blog about his experience programming the show: