Hairspray is currently scheduled to run until 29 September
UK - Hairspray the Musical officially opened its doors last week. The show had been delayed by more than a year following the COVID outbreak. Unusual Rigging was part of the team that helped bring the all-singing all-dancing production to the stage.
Production manager Rich Blacksell reports: “I cannot begin to explain how delighted we are to finally be raising the curtain on Hairspray. We were just four days into week one of rehearsals and about to start fitting up when COVID-19 shut down all live events. We’d brought Unusual on board to handle a rather complex job because we’d planned to rehearse and tech at the English National Ballet’s new home on City Island. We intended to replicate the Coliseum at ENB, install some Kinesys systems and then move at the speed of light into the theatre for the show’s opening.”
As is the case for almost all live events affected by the pandemic, plans have evolved and changed over time, determined by everything from allowed opening dates, to social distancing requirements and budgets. Rich continues: “We started with a Plan A back in March last year when I met with Jeremy Featherstone, one of Unusual’s senior design engineers at the Coliseum to conduct a grid recce
“We were talking about fabrication of diverts and other bits and pieces but with a sense of foreboding. We knew even then it wasn’t looking too likely that we’d get to open the production on schedule. What we didn’t realise is that it would be more than a year. In that time, we’ve probably changed things a fair few times but the Unusual team has just been fantastic.”
He adds: “I have worked with Unusual Rigging a great deal over the years and the team has a firm relationship with the Coliseum too. With their extensive knowledge and expertise, we were able to work together to facilitate the most effective and efficient way of getting the show up and running while being mindful of keeping within a set budget.
“Jeremy, Simon Stone and Emily Egleton were instrumental in helping us reach a solution while Mark Davis and the team onsite worked so enthusiastically to get everything in on schedule and with minimal fuss - sorting out the rigging for the entire production.”
The show is currently running with socially distanced audiences - following the roadmap out of lockdown, the auditorium will open to full capacity on the 19 July. Hairspray is currently scheduled to run until 29 September.
Rich concludes: “Right now, the most important thing for us is to put on the show. It’s no longer about making a huge profit - we’ll be happy if we break even. The main thing is to show our team of cast and crew who have worked tirelessly to put this amazing show together that their efforts have been worth it.
“People in our industry have been impacted in such a huge way by the closure of live events, we want to make sure that every part of the food chain matters - from the characters on stage to the suppliers like Unusual Rigging. To have a team like Unusual who really understand the end game and are as keen to achieve the same goals as we are, is priceless."

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