The Wiggles is a full blown international touring company and definitely one of Australia’s most profitable touring shows. It is colourful and as expected, larger than life. Bears, Octopus, Kangaroos and large green things with spots jump, flop and spring around the stage. Lights flash, sounds sizzle, pyros ignite and kids go wild. But that’s where adolescence stops. Behind the scenes this is a full blown and very large production, well engineered and implemented.
It is on a scale that would make most bands and live shows envious. There are fifteen cast and fifteen crew travelling Australia for what is now the 5th tour of the Wiggles. Rob Miles heads the technical crew covering audio, lighting, video and pyrotechnics. Its Rob’s 4th tour with the show and he is hardly a newcomer to live gigs. His past touring list reads like the who’s who of the industry with the likes of Lou Reid, The Irish Tenors, Henry Rowlands, The Corrs, Byorn Again, Tim Fin, Bic Runga and Vicka and Linda to name a few. Rob is a very slick operator. He knows his stuff, he is professional and most importantly he knows how to make money by only using the right equipment. “Our most recent alteration to the equipment list has been the new Nexo Geo system from Chris Kennedy at Norwest Productions” said Rob “and take it from me, it is fantastic”. “The Geo’s are so controlled and directional, across the entire spectrum, that backstage, the only sound you hear is coming from the monitors. Turn those off and it almost goes quiet”. “Not only is the sound vastly improved but also our costs have been reduced dramatically”. The previous systems had mostly been made up of EAW systems. “We used the 850 and the 750 systems then we used the 860 line array and even went back and had another crack with the 750’s. This year we tried the Nexo Geo and now there is no going back”. “We are still using some EAW’s for on stage monitoring but by the start of next year we will have ditched those and the whole system will be totally Nexo”. Rob added “It just makes common sense. Not just because the sound is clearer but also because where we were previously using a semi for the audio system we are now able to flat pack an eight tonner and you don’t have to be a genius to work what the cost savings are”. Another area where costs have been reduced is on stage. As anticipated, all props and stage paraphernalia are huge. It’s greatly exaggerated and literally everything is larger than life. But this is where the designers have been very creative. The whole set is inflatable. Pull the plug and it just folds away.
The production run is hectic. They do three shows a day on average. In twenty one days they cram thirty shows through the major cities of Australia. “It is very demanding” said Rob, “but at the same time, it is probably the most rewarding tour I have ever done”. “It is great to see the looks on the faces of both the kids and also the Mum’s and Dad’s that come along”. “I don’t think they expect to see a production as large and as professional as this”. Rob then went on to tell us about the time a young boy ran up on stage and did a stage dive into his mothers arms. Apparently the kids (and remember we are talking about three year old’s) call the front of stage area the Mosh Pit. Rob laughed and said that some parents even ring to try and book seats in the so called mosh pit area. Now we were only at the show for a few hours but I would personally like to say that the most impressive part to me was all the great looking Mums and their friends who came to the show. And the best place to enjoy a bit of young Aussie eye candy was from the front of house position where Alex Keller was doing a great job of running the sound. Randy Fransz the Audio Systems Engineer had obviously seen more of this than I and so was quick to point out other features. High on his list was again the new Nexo Geo system. “It is terrific” said Randy as he motioned to the EQ. “As flat as, and just so clear and clean”. He then went on to explain that he found it incredibly easy to tune. One small Geo array flown either side was all that was required. Clarity at front of house was absolutely stunning and SPL amazingly constant for each and every seat in the house. Alex Sardi (LD) did us a favor and lit the GEO’s with a spot. Just as well because they were dwarfed and almost hidden by the lighting grid. As those in the know will tell you, these speakers are inconceivably small. Also consider that the entire amp rack consists of only two Camco’s per side and Whining Willy the barbers baby could lift those on his own. Once again we are drawn back to the incredible output yet lack of size with this whole system and the obvious cost savings in the areas of rigging, transport and time.