The season opener at Zach Theatre is hilarious and a visual color riot. I laughed and cried and thought about buying season tickets even though I get in for free. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

A VSL reader actually asked why he hadn't seen any dress rehearsal photos lately. I thought I would attempt to accommodate him. Late Summer is a slow season for live theater but by the end of September Zach Theatre is in full swing and we're back at work. I've been doing something different for the big, blockbuster opening play of our season this time around. I've been going almost weekly to the rehearsals of Priscilla, leading up to the dress rehearsal, to see what the evolution of a musical looks like. 

Seeing choreography rehearsals and blocking rehearsals means I'm not walking in cold on the night of the big shoot and hoping I'm smart enough to stay up with the flow of the show. My early involvement was strictly as a volunteer but it worked so well for me because I really got to know a lot of the cast members and they, in turn, had a palpable comfort level with me as we neared the big night. 

And the BIG NIGHT was last night. I knew Belinda would love the show so I asked her to come with me. We had a row of seats reserved so I could move around to shoot at various angles during the show. Even with a "friends and family" audience in the house. The row is right in middle of the house. Perfect for a big, wide show like this one. We had an early dinner in a local restaurant and then got back about 30 minutes before the doors opened to double check
the settings on my two cameras.

I shot with only two cameras last night. One was the Sony A7rii, with the 70-200mm f4.0 G lens permanently welded onto the camera. The other was the Sony a6300, sporting the 18-105mm f4.0 G lens. I set up the A7rii to shoot at 3200 ISO and set the a6300 to shoot at 1600 ISO. Both were set to manual exposure and color balanced to 4400 K. I used the a6300 in the raw format and the bigger camera in super fine Jpeg at the highest resolution, downsampling for final delivery. 

If aren't familiar with the musical, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical  you might want to click on the link and dive in. It's basically a story about female impersonators who make their livelihood lip syncing popular songs from the 1970's and 1980's who are making their way across Australia on a bus they've named Priscilla. 

I shot about 1,400 images of the show and edited down to a few less than 800 to deliver to the theater. They need a wide variety for a mix of marketing uses and I'm always more comfortable erring on the side of plenty...

Here is today's selection of some of my mainstream favorites. There are a couple of shots I wasn't able to get. The audience got so excited at a few points in the show that they spontaneously stood up cheering and waving their hands in front of me. Ahh well. That's why we shoot extra. 

Maybe the shot count is a direct reaction to the years in which we shot these shows on medium format film with a manual focusing Hasselblad and ISO 640 speed film. it got a little old (and expensive) changing rolls of film, in the dark, after every 12 exposures.... So happy times have changed. 

And, speaking of changes, I remember shooting the ever changing light color and exposure with OVF cameras and having to power chimp at speed to make sure we were getting usable stuff. Being able to check was we go through the incredible magic of electronic viewfinders is just a flat out breakthrough. I'm pretty sure I could never go back. It would be like flying blind. We've already done that. No need to reinvent the stone wheel.

Please be sure to click on the images and see them in the larger size I uploaded. Make any quality judgments from those images as they are less blogger compressed...

I thought I'd be raving about how good the A7Rii and the 70-200mm lens was for this work but then I saw what I'd shot on the a6300 and the 18-105mm G; it was competitive. Really competitive. Now I'll never be able to make up my mind. 

If you are in Austin you really should go and see this musical. It's non-stop. The lighting and staging are wonderful and the dancing is so good. It's just an evening of too much fun.

I'm pretty sure I'd love to read your comments! Fire away but be nice...


Anonymous said...

Incredible work! Bookmarked.

terryrogers said...

These are terrific images and the show looks to be very cool indeed. I would love to see it.
And now, about that Sony envy.......

Michael Matthews said...

Superb images, probably the best (as seen online) in the past year or more. In addition to razor-sharp technique and perfect selection of equipment I think the lighting gods were on your side this time.