Happy Birthday Gorby

LarMac LIVE production managed Mikhail Gorbachev’s 80th birthday gala celebrations at the Royal Albert Hall

UK-based production company LarMac LIVE – headed by Jo MacKay and Ian Greenway – production managed and co-ordinated all logistics for staging the star-studded “Gorby 80” gala concert and awards event at London’s Royal Albert Hall (RAH).

Everything was compiled and organised in a super-quick and highly efficient operation lasting just under four weeks.

The high profile charity event fused entertainment and awards presentations in celebration of the 80th birthday of former Russian statesman, Mikhail Gorbachev.

It was hosted by Kevin Spacey and Sharon Stone, featuring live appearances and a fusion of classical and popular music by artists including Dame Shirley Bassey,

Bryan Ferry, The Scorpions, Katherine Jenkins, Paul Anka and Melanie C among others, some performing unique collaborations accompanied by the 92 piece London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) conducted by Valery Gergiev.

Three humanitarian “Mikhail Gorbachev: the man who changed the world awards” –Glasnost, Perestroika and Uskoreniye – were presented during the evening, honouring the contributions of those who have made a difference to culture and society. Special guests and speechmakers included Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev (Russia), Arnold Schwarzenegger (USA), Shimon Peres (State of Israel), Catherine Deneuve (France) and Irina Gorbacheva (Russia).

The whole event was recorded for broadcast on Russian television via a 17- camera shoot including a remote hot head above the stage. With so many politicians and super VIPs in the house, security was exceptionally tight.

Massive challenges

LarMac LIVE was brought onboard by Irina Gulyaeva, the event’s production director on behalf of The Gorbachev Foundation just a month before the celebrations. This very tight timeframe was the massive challenge, which they accepted with characteristic enthusiasm and determination, working alongside the Russian team. At that stage, although there had been initial consultations with some key creative and technical suppliers, the only production personnel actually confirmed for the project were lighting designer Al Gurdon and set designer Nina Kobiashvili.

With no time to waste, decisions had to be made quickly. LarMac LIVE discussed the client’s technical requirements in detail, established a production budget, met with and confirmed all the creative and technical suppliers, finalised the set design and running order, brought in their own stage and back-of-house management, show calling, floor management and artist liaison teams, booked local crews and scheduled an off-site rehearsal day in Walthamstow Assembly Halls for the LSO and relevant artists – as there was no time on the day! The LSO were also on tour and returning to London on the morning of the rehearsal, all of which had to be factored into the planning.

The load-in was at midnight on show day and all the technical production had to be rigged, focused, fine tuned and ready to rock for an 11am final rehearsal, preceding a 5.30pm security sweep, doors and a 7.30pm kick off for the evening.

An essential five-hour pre-rigging session was shoehorned in after the get-out of the last Teenage Cancer Trust show, just three days beforehand. This allowed at least some of the required 40 plus rigging points to be installed in advance.

Smooth operations

With so little time available and the complexity of the show, LarMac LIVE pulled out all the stops using a raft of premium event suppliers with whom it has very strong relationships, of which were also familiar with the RAH.

Says Jo MacKay: “The fact that these are among the best in the industry really helped in bringing a breadth of skills, experience and resources to the equation. It hastened the flow of communications and enabled everything to become established very quickly and any anomalies to be addressed immediately.”

Lighting was supplied by PRG, and included over 300 moving lights, LED lightsources and conventionals. An L-Acoustics VDOSC sound system was installed by Britannia Row with the orchestra mixed by classical specialist Richard Sharratt and the bands engineered by Tom Howat. Production video, including a 13 metre wide by 7.5 metre curved Pixled F15 screen, rigged with custom brackets came from XL Video, co-ordinated by Chris Saunders. The set was built by Steel Monkey in just over two weeks and the RAH provided a stage extension. The OB units and cameras were provided by Alfacam, with all the cameras operated by a crew of Russians, directed by Andrei Boltenko.

With a 30 hour on-site schedule from start to finish, each technical department had to supply enough crew to work full double shifts.

LarMac LIVE left no production stones unturned, and also found its extensive knowledge of the Royal Albert Hall and existing relationship with staff, management and heads of department there invaluable in smoothing the workflow.

Knowing that a well fed crew is also a happy crew, another smart move, particularly with the gruelling schedule, was getting Eat To The Beat on-site to deal with all crew and production catering. They had to feed upward of 400 people throughout the day and supply all the dressing room riders.

Twenty nine dressing rooms were established – some with the help of an

extensive pipe-and-drape network – furnished with items from GLD, and Blackout supplied all the creative draping for the stage set.

The foresight and hard work all paid off, the connections, contacts, the knowhow and intuition involved in compiling a superlative multi-layered and leveled show team with the right synergies to make it all happen helped ensure the event was an outstanding success.

Continues MacKay: “We are really proud to work on Gorby 80. We had to be very confident in all our decisions from the off as there was no time for faltering. The results spoke for themselves and stand as a great tribute to the professionalism, talent and charisma of all involved.”

The show was produced by Leonid Shlyahover and directed by Dmitry Feldman with creative direction by Felix Michailov.