Production Park Studios 'Come Alive'

From the initial conversations with David Wright, Production Manager for The Man, The Music, The Show; the Production Park Studios team knew the month of April 2019 would be consumed with the Glitz and Glamour of what promised to be ‘The Greatest Show’. Hugh Jackman’s theatrical spectacular was coming to South Kirkby.

When Adrian Brooks constructed Europe’s first purpose-built Production Rehearsal facility in 2005, did he have any idea it would one day welcome a contingent of 140 cast and crew from all of the world including Emmy, Tony and Golden Globe winners and Academy Award Nominees. The first conundrum for the studios team was hosting everyone. Fortunately, in West Yorkshire we are blessed with a vast array of hotels located within driving distance; equivalent of an Uber to the closest tube station in London. Within these vendors, there is scope to accommodate every level of the touring party from inner city Holiday Inn Express’ to exclusive Georgian Mansions that can trace their estates back to 1071AD.

Hugh’s production team used a combination of locally sourced Mercedes vehicles and runners provided by Rachel, Ben and the team at Usual Suspects, who provide all local crew work for Production Park Studio 001. There was self-drive hire cars for crew who needed flexibility and local coach services which made logistical movements across the region a breeze, despite the best efforts of the Tour de Yorkshire. The 14 hotel rooms at Production Park Studio 001 provided welcome rest bite from the hectic rehearsal schedule in the form of en-suite day rooms. Scott Matthews, Studio 001 Manager offered these words on the team at Usual’s; “Usual Suspects always go above and beyond to sort our local crew needs here at Studio 001. No matter what time of day or night and how short a notice is given, Rachel is always accommodating with great crew who are here so often, most of them feel like members of staff and part of the family”.

As is the case with some productions that have never rehearsed at Studio 001, crew and management can be sceptical of moving such a complicated production to an area without the local infrastructure of a major city. This looming doubt however is soon resolved in the safe hands and local knowledge of the Production Park Studios team and without the distraction of friends, loved ones and wild nights, unless invited or encouraged (Sheffield and Leeds are only a short train journey away). This means the production team are able to blitz through their rehearsal schedule without undue interruption, leading to a much more cost and time effective pre-production period. Add in the peace and tranquillity of the Yorkshire countryside, stress levels are kept to a minimum before the hectic touring schedule begins.

Once the cast and crew had arrived, it was all hands on deck. 3 weeks of tech build, followed by 2 weeks of full cast rehearsals. With the stage provider for the tour, PP Studios’ sister company, Brilliant Stages located less than 100ft away, any changes, re-designs or last minute artist demands could be made at minimal costs to the visiting production. In some cases, Brilliant were able to fix other issues on the set that had come from other vendors who were slightly more than a stone’s throw away from the studio. Jordan Whittemore who was Brilliant’s Project Manager agreed by saying, “Having the production here on site with us is a fantastic blessing. With the studio being no more than 50 steps away from our fabrication zone, it allows us to quickly and easily drop in to snag, fettle, change, add, remove and generally improve the set. It makes the integration stage of a project so much easier, allowing us to get the set pieces completely ready for touring life.”

Due to the flexibility of spaces inside Studio 001, David Wright and his team under the careful backstage coordination of Rowan McAllan, were able to take over every space inside the building. The Production offices on the ground floor became the Wardrobe Team’s headquarters and the two large offices on the 2nd floor became Production Management and Tour Management offices. Hugh and his team took over the west wing of the dressing room floor, making good use of one of the ‘star’ dressing rooms while his band and dancers made use of the other dressing rooms and the 'Mexican Cantina' themed Green Room. The dance studio was turned into a dance and orchestra rehearsal space with live streaming capability for Hugh to record back tracks live with his orchestra when they were down at Air Studios in London. Studio 001’s cinema was lucky enough to strip out the temporary pipe and drape one evening and play host to a Hollywood premier for Hugh and his manager to stream his latest cinematic outing and provide feedback to the powers that be back in tinsel town. Production Park residents “Nicely Done” were on hand to provide additional furnishings from desk lamps and trestle tables to vanity mirrors and additional seating saving time and money for the production team.

Production Park’s creative cluster of live events companies brings a reassurance to studio clients that they are surrounded by like-minded knowledgeable individuals. They can call on their services at a moment’s notice to provide essential support to their time spent here. Flightcase company, Flightcase Warehouse, who have a presence on the Park, were called upon to make some cases at the 11th hour and were able to turn this around with ease. One Production Park company that were in high demand over the ‘Greatest Showman's’ stay were our onsite catering company, Rockpool Tour Catering.

Pete and Charlie's Rockpool Tour Catering has a permanent base at Production Park even when he has kitchens out across the world with numerous clients, including; Metallica, Muse and Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Given the number of Mr Jackman’s crew frequenting the Park every day, not to mention the on-site staff needing ample refreshment, the Rockpool team worked with the Production Park Facilities and Studios Teams to turnaround a brand new catering area adjacent to their existing restaurant to accommodate the crew party. Stu Jackson, before heading out on tour with MUSE was charged with the enviable task of cooking for the man himself in the catering room inside Studio 001 which was carried out with aplomb and very well received. Hugh even tried to steal Stu away from MUSE to come on tour as personal chef, with no such luck.

The Studio is the beating heart of Production Park and when it is pumping the park thrives with it and as a result, comes into its own. Whether it was storage or furniture, cases or welding; The Man, The Music, The Show highlighted the enormous benefit Productions can experience bringing their teams away to West Yorkshire and immersing themselves in a vibrant community that can cater for any request, whilst maintaining the logistical capabilities needed and saving everyone a bob or two at the same time.

David Wright, Production Manager, commented: "When Lee and Ben Brooks first approached me to propose the use of Production Park Studio 001 for the Hugh Jackman production rehearsals, I felt we chose them for a variety of very good reasons:

Scott and Sam who manage the studio studied our extensive needs and accommodated all of our requirements.

These included:
• A dance/music rehearsal studio on the 4th floor with piano and playback
• 6 dressing rooms for the artist, dancers, singers and musicians
• 5 sets of offices for management plus tour and production management
• An extensive wardrobe workshop with fitting rooms conveniently located on the ground floor just off the main studio
• A pre vis suite with high speed internet for the overnight video content work.
• 2 catering rooms for our large company

Also within the infrastructure of Production Park Studio 001 we were supported with additional furnishings, ground transfers and local hotel connections.

Hugh particularly enjoyed the location as it lacked distractions and encouraged a focused rehearsal period. And the style of rehearsals were well structured using the 24/7 access afforded and staffed by Production Park to the full.

Susanne, Peter, Charlie and Joanne from Rockpool catered admirably with 2 dedicated catering rooms for our company which expanded to 120 on certain days.

Our set was drawn and constructed at Brilliant Stages. It was invaluable to be able to walk over to check in with Jordan, our project manager, the design department and the fabrication workshop during our occupancy. As with many productions there were remedial changes made as we went through the production rehearsal process. Some of the changes were fairly major and Brilliant Stages stepped up and delivered according to our needs and schedule.

We were also supported by the Scenic Department at Brilliant Stages who took care of our soft goods needs, and Flightcase Warehouse who supplied cases. Having everyone on site made the consultation process more immediate and reduced any lag time in delivery. We will definitely return to Production Park with another production."

Sam Wilkinson from the Studio team remarked “Having David Wright, Dan Mcgee and their team at Studio 001 was an utter pleasure. We couldn’t have asked for a nicer group of people to spend a month with not to mention the sheer professionalism displayed by all departments. The magnitude of the production visiting our Studio should have pushed our resources to the max but every question, query or quandary was easily solvable by our team or the wider team around us. And before you ask, yes, Hugh Jackman is the nicest man in the world. They’re welcome back anytime!”

Scott Matthews also added “We received a lovely thank you card from Hugh on his last day which was a nice gratification for the hours of hard graft put in by everyone on the Park during their time here. We always try to go above and beyond for every client no matter the size of the production, but to receive such praise from Hugh and the whole team – we must be doing something right! A personal highlight of the month was recording voice overs and overdubs for a film and the show itself with a basic recording package provided by the guys over at Backstage Academy in a last minute emergency. Seeing the man himself and his processes of acting first hand in a cosy hotel room on the top floor of Studio 001 was inspiring, maybe I’ll pack this studio management lark in and follow my dreams in Hollywood... how hard can it be?”

The Man, The Music, the Show rehearsed at Production Park Studio 001, Production Park, South Kirkby, from the 1st of April until 4th May (including internal build time) before carrying on North to their first show of the world tour at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro on the 7th Of May 2019.

For enquiries at Production Park Studios Wakefield or London please email studios@productionpark.co.uk.