# Les Miserables; Cost

#### Timmyp

##### Member
Hi everyone,

I'm part of the production team for our school shows, the whole team is ambitious and willing to try and do a show that we won't forget.

We're thinking of doing Les Miserables. Really all I'm asking is, how much is it going to cost to build scenery for the show? We're going to try and keep it fairly basic as there isn't a huge team, and we can't devote more than about 150hours to the scenery.

Is this enough time? Or are we going to need more?

Obviously we'll be able to get a discount on materials for the scenery, but how much would it cost for on average?

Thanks for any help you can give...my questions probably don't make much sense, I'm in a rush!! Got to go out to the theatre now to rig for a show next week.

Any other hints or tips you can give would be great

Timmy P

#### Foxinabox10

##### Active Member
What scenes are you going to build and what scenes are you going to just block as if it's real?

Are you going to build a rotating stage? We thought it was crucial to the production when we did it, so we did...we raised the stage level up a foot and cut out a circle and put it on wheels with a tire spinning it on top. It cost us about $1500. We built the barricade (16 feet long/2 sections), the gate, the bridge, and some other small pieces for about$500, though we already had the 20 foot steel beems we used to build the bridge.

Any other questions about the show, feel free to ask...I loved doing it...it's a great show.

#### Footer

##### Senior Team
Senior Team
When my el-mamadar (sp) did it they dropped at leat 6 to 7 grand on scenery... and probably over a 800 man hours.... but there are ways around this.... i attended a workshop a few years back about how a catholic school put on the show for under a grand, and that included rights... give find Father Dominic... last know place I have heard he was is here... http://www.stbedeabbey.org/contact.htm#departments... he will be more then happy to discuss with you what he did... and btw he has a baking show on pbs so called breaking bread with father dominic that is also an avenue to pursue him about...

#### Timmyp

##### Member
Thanks

We don't have the space/man power to build a rotating stage, though it would be nice!

Thanks again,

Timmy P

#### jumpjet

##### Active Member
I just closed that show in November, so the pain is fresh in my mind. So pardon the possible snide tone of this response.

Les Mis can be an incredible presentation. Say what you will about the story, but the presentation value is stunning. People love the music, and when actors die on stage, people go nuts.

That being said, I think that without great tech to back it up, this show falls flat. Most of the scene props can be done with pantomime: the prisoner's picks and shovels, farmers tools, sheets, etc.

Some of the scenes can be done very minimally, and to great effect:
The hospital where fantine dies needn't be more than a bed and a chair (In the script it calls for Valjean to break a chair and threaten Javert with it-not neccessary.)
The gate of Valjeans house can be little more than a gate, which can double for the gate of the factory in the earlier scene, just at a different angle.
The bishops house can be simple a table and a few chairs.
The ABC cafe and the other cafe only need to be chairs and tables.
Etc, etc, etc, that show is filled with little vignette scenes that need very little scenery.

BUT.

There is always a but:
There are scenes in the show which cannot be done weakly. The obvious one is the barricade. Don't get hung up on the fact that the professional show makes their out of the streets of paris, but it is a handy way to keep a huge set piece like the barricade hidden on stage. Also keep in mind that there is something like 16 bars of music to assemble the barricade. Yikes. There are several parts of the scene where gunfire needs to be exchanged, think about that and how it will look with whatever muskets you end up using.

Another scene that can't be softballed is Javert's suicide. This scene is something that can so easily turn from tragic into funny, which destroys the tone of the second act. The big show does it with flying a bridge up while Javert falls and melts into the fog. If you have a fly space, this could work for you. However, if the fog doesn't lay right, as so often it doesn't, this can end up looking ridiculous. The safe route to go would be to build a bridge that he can jump behind and out of view.

I guess the point of this long, convoluted response is this:

There are many parts of this show that are easy to stage with little or no scenery, but you CANNOT skimp on the big numbers, or there will be no show to speak of.

P.S.: Since this question was asked in Scenery Questions, I didn't really address this, but CRAZY costume plot. Expect to spend big clams on costumes.

#### Gregi

##### Member
We are in the throws of a Les Mis production at our High School. I was hired as the Tech Director in mid January. I have been working on the show virtually every day since then. Most of that time has been spent researching and designing our rotating stage. The original budget was $4000 for scenery & materials. The Producer/Musical Director wanted a rotating stage that was built well enough that it could be reused for other productions in the future. I am an engineer by profession so some may consider my design a bit overkill in some areas but it was based upon research and advice on the Control Booth Forums, and advice from TDs who mounted this show locally in the last few years. To make a long story short, I have already spent the original budget on the turntable and the raised deck. (Plywood, lumber, hardware, casters, a motorized drive system, and controls). I shopped around for the best prices on casters and we bought the motor on a clearance sale about 1/3 the original cost. The speed reducer we got on e-Bay for less than 20% of it's list price. We bought most of the lumber and hardware through wholesale distributors. We are now working on the other set pieces so I don't have a total yet. Our show opens on April 24 so we are going to be very busy until then. We are probably going to spend all of the$6500 revised budget before we are done. I'm sure it can be done for less if you can borrow or rent some of the set pieces. I forgot to mention the budget includes building two dry ice fog machines. These will be added to our stock equipment inventory.

This is only one persons experience (so far) I will update you later if you are interested.

Gregi

#### Footer

##### Senior Team
Senior Team
First... Necro Warning...

I did the show this past summer and we had a scenery budget of 90k. We spent I think 60k, but that included a lot of pneumatics, and scenery carts for the entire show to truck pack. We also had a full false deck for tracking elements. We originally budgets 30k for the revolve, but we did not get the revolve rights for the show, so we came in way under budget.

#### derekleffew

##### Resident Curmudgeon
Senior Team
... but we did not get the revolve rights for the show, so we came in way under budget.
By "did not get" do you mean 1)"could not obtain" or 2)"chose not to purchase" or 3)other, the revolve rights? And what's next, A Chorus Line restricting the use of the white painted line? This may be the first time a piece of scenic machinery has played such an important role. BTW, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has a car in it. I'm fairly certain John Napier has no control over anyone wanting to use a levitating tire for a production of Cats.

Interestingly, the "Other resources" for the LMSE by the UK licenser includes "Production Slides to enhance set design," which would appear to encourage plagiarism of the scenic design.

#### icewolf08

##### CBMod
CB Mods
By "did not get" do you mean 1)"could not obtain" or 2)"chose not to purchase" or 3)other, the revolve rights? And what's next, A Chorus Line restricting the use of the white painted line? This may be the first time a piece of scenic machinery has played such an important role. BTW, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has a car in it. I'm fairly certain John Napier has no control over anyone wanting to use a levitating tire for a production of Cats.
Three years ago we (Pioneer Theatre) was the first regional theatre in the US to be awarded the first class performance rights for Les Miserables. As part of the contract for the performance rights, all design elements had to be approved by Cameron McIntosh. So it doesn't really surprise me if some people are not given permission to use a revolve in the show. The people who are making money off Les Mis are guarding it as close to their chest as possible, and frankly, I don't blame them.

#### Van

##### CBMod
CB Mods
I would be at a loss to even begin to cost out a job on the other side of the pond, as it were, but wow, 150 hours ? I could burn that up in less than a week in a shop with only four people. That's a tall order for the scenery involved in Les Mis.

#### Footer

##### Senior Team
Senior Team
By "did not get" do you mean 1)"could not obtain" or 2)"chose not to purchase" or 3)other, the revolve rights? And what's next, A Chorus Line restricting the use of the white painted line?
We wanted the revolve, money was not the issue. Last summer 5 "regional" (summerstock) companies where given the rights to the show. They would not give any of us the "rights" to the revolve. It was stated in our contract that we could not have it.

I will be interested to see if this starts popping up for other shows. I am surprised something similar has not happened for Cats, because that show is hardcore ripped of nearly everywhere it is performed. Chorus line on the other hand is hard tied to the scenery. You have to have the line, have to have the mirrors. The finale costumes are the finale costumes. I think the theatre community has just decided that it is the way it is. When I worked on the show 2 years ago, we even used Tharon's original cue sheet (all 96 channels of it) and adapted the plot. I was not totally comfortable with that, but its what the director wanted and the LD went along with it.

#### terminalvelocity16

##### Member
I agree, that's a difficult assignment. I just worked on a Les Mis production last year and I designed/built a good deal of the sets. The gates where just two stanchions made of ply wood and 2x4 with pvc gates hanging off them, obviously painted black. I cut holes in the back and put doors on hinges so crew members could go inside and "drive" them. interesting way to make things move. I drew lines in glow tape on the stage so they knew where to go. The barricade was just a large stepped rolling platform in two sections. We acquired old furniture out of dumpsters and donations and just nailed everything on in weird angles. The rest of the set pieces were mostly some crudely put together tables and chairs and then stained and lacquered. We also used large sponges and painted the entire stage too look like cobblestones in green and gray. I don't know about doing it in 150 hours, but you can certainly try. Let me know if your interesting in any of these ideas, I could probably go back into my files and dig some more exacting ideas up if your interested.

-term

#### icewolf08

##### CBMod
CB Mods
Just a quick reminder for those referring to the OP and the 150hrs: That post was from 2006, that show is probably long over.

#### cdub260

##### CBMod
CB Mods
Just a quick reminder for those referring to the OP and the 150hrs: That post was from 2006, that show is probably long over.
Details, details. As if that's really that important.

#### Sayen

##### Active Member
I've done two high school productions of this show now, both very different in scope and design. I think the real fun in some of these bigger shows is finding a new way to produce it, different from what everyone is used to. Why build a revolve if you can find a better, more interesting way to do the show, especially at the high school level?

#### bigbear

##### Member
Hi! Forum Newbie here, so apologies if I've missed an obvious answer to this!

Our school is doing a production of Les Mis in about a year's time and I need to know if it's possible to get answers to the following questions about our direction, bearing in mind we have a very enthusiastic and ambitious new head of music and an equally demanding head of drama...

1) I've got a small, programmable DMX desk, one 'manual' follow spot, two floods and around 25 assorted fresnels and profiles. I've also access to four LED instruments and a free standing set of four DMX controllable tungsten lanterns, with a portable dimmer pack. Is Les Mis even possible with this restricted lighting? Three stage areas to light too!

2) The music dept. wants to hire in 24 radio mics for the leads, is this enough? Too many? They also want to use wireless control of the audio mixing, using an i-pad in the orchestra pit. Will this be reliable in operation, bearing in mind the 20+ channels of wireless microphony, plus any stray radiation from audience mobile phones, etc.? I've never used remote mxing via an i-pad, so am at a loss... I reckon we will be mixing around 40 channels of sound for the production...

3) Bearing in mind the above comments from other posters re. the barricades and the bridge scenes, are there any other scenes that will require a major mechanical presence? We are using three separate stage areas to represent smaller sets, so it will all focus on the main stage for the 'biggies'.

4) Finally... (for now, at least!), I've been told that the directors want to use pyrotechnics to make an impression during the battle scenes. Is this essential? We will have dozens of school children on the stage and I feel that it might be a recipe for disaster to include anything that physically goes 'bang' into the pot at this point. I think that it can all be done with smoke and lighting. Any thoughts, please?

Bigbear

#### TheaterEd

##### Renaissance Man
Fight Leukemia
Hi! Forum Newbie here, so apologies if I've missed an obvious answer to this!

Our school is doing a production of Les Mis in about a year's time and I need to know if it's possible to get answers to the following questions about our direction, bearing in mind we have a very enthusiastic and ambitious new head of music and an equally demanding head of drama...

1) I've got a small, programmable DMX desk, one 'manual' follow spot, two floods and around 25 assorted fresnels and profiles. I've also access to four LED instruments and a free standing set of four DMX controllable tungsten lanterns, with a portable dimmer pack. Is Les Mis even possible with this restricted lighting? Three stage areas to light too!

2) The music dept. wants to hire in 24 radio mics for the leads, is this enough? Too many? They also want to use wireless control of the audio mixing, using an i-pad in the orchestra pit. Will this be reliable in operation, bearing in mind the 20+ channels of wireless microphony, plus any stray radiation from audience mobile phones, etc.? I've never used remote mxing via an i-pad, so am at a loss... I reckon we will be mixing around 40 channels of sound for the production...

3) Bearing in mind the above comments from other posters re. the barricades and the bridge scenes, are there any other scenes that will require a major mechanical presence? We are using three separate stage areas to represent smaller sets, so it will all focus on the main stage for the 'biggies'.

4) Finally... (for now, at least!), I've been told that the directors want to use pyrotechnics to make an impression during the battle scenes. Is this essential? We will have dozens of school children on the stage and I feel that it might be a recipe for disaster to include anything that physically goes 'bang' into the pot at this point. I think that it can all be done with smoke and lighting. Any thoughts, please?

Bigbear
I have no experience with this show, but I can offer my opinions on a couple of topics here.

1. Possible? Yes. Easily? no. I would focus on getting a good face wash of the three sections and then see what I have left for top/back/side lighting, Using the follow spot only for soloists. With out knowing more about your space I can't go into more specifics. Good luck on that.

2. I can't speak to if that is an appropriate number, but I will say that controlling them from the pit sounds foolish. I used to run 18 shure wireless packs per show and had no problem with interference, just make sure you ask the people your renting from to explain how to check the room for interference. As for the i-pad. with that many channels I just don't see that being doable, much less from the orchestra pit. The sound you are hearing in the pit will be nothing compared to what it sounds like in the house. I have a booth at the back of my Aud and still insist on bringing the board into the house for shows (mostly because I work with some first year high school students and they need every advantage they can get). Remote mixing is great for some things, but I would call this a fool's errand.

3.I have no idea! Good luck and feel free to post pictures to the show thread!

4. NO. Absolutely not. No. Feel free to use a hazer. use some well timed light flashes along with drum strikes. Do not put (even small) explosions on stage with children without the supervision of licensed professionals. Not only are the explosions/pyrotechnics physically dangerous, but also the fire hazard they create is not worth the pay off at this level of theater. I am all for elevating the level of student productions, but the answer that I would give my director is and emphatic NO! If they insist, get a quote from a licensed pro and that should be enough to make sure you don't have anything going 'bang' on stage.

Welcome to control Booth, and I look forward to seeing you around on the boards.

#### JohnD

##### Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
Welcome bigbear, I think TheaterEd pretty much covered it.
A few thoughts,
1. You have to consider the somber mood of the piece, the standard 5 point lighting usually used for musicals isn't really needed. I have done, and seen some very effective scenes done with a single fixture. Very dramatic indeed, the main downside is losing a lamp, you have to have a back up plan (followspot?). The eye is very forgiving and if properly staged the actors can use this very effectively. You might try it out, set up a single Fresnel and get a singer and director and play with it.
2. What is the Ipad communicating with? How good is the person who in using the Ipad?
3. One good thing about the big scenes is thay have a lot of people in them, misdirection is the magicians friend, also helps keep the eye off of limited scenery.
4. A definite NO on that one, I am not sure but I believe the UK has some very stringent rules in place. Even the old stand by flashpot is too dangerous to use. Flying and Pyro are two things that can not be done without (expensive) experts. Just the liability insurance alone makes that so.

#### bigbear

##### Member
Hi guys, thanks for useful advice.

I've now convinced the management not to use pyro in any shape or form, so i'll be doing it all with haze and lights. I feel SO much happier now!

Our cast is assembled - 132 individuals, including chorus... To get them all onto the stage at once, we've had to plan an apron on the front of the fixed stage, plus curved, stepped inclines around the orchestra to allow audience access by the cast. I'm now working on 'musket strike' effects, using compressed air and small plastic tubes filled with fuller's earth. Puffed into the air with some backlighting, it looks good. Just got to make it controllable and reliable and I'm done!

Lighting will be minimal, as indicated before, but I now have a small budget for 'effects', which I've used to create the barricade lighting and to buy a water ripple effect wheeel for the 'bridge jump'.

All in all, it should look OK, if not like a full West End production.

Sound mixing is to be via two desks, one 16 and one 24 channel, paralleled up with a custom box of my own creation. All stage mounted electronics will be under the stage apron and accessible via the understage area.

The directors ave requested that all flats and curtaining be removed from the stage, so that scenery will have to fold into the wings when not in use. I'm not sure that they've thought about where to put 130+ children and extra staff while waiting to come on, etc...

More updates and some pics as it all progresses. Showtime is not for another 11 months, after all...

#### simoneves

##### Member
Hey bigbear,

I just found this thread and I'm interested to know how your production is coming along. I did sound for a local student group production of Les Mis last summer so I'd be happy to advise if you still have any unknowns there. For the record, we used 28 wireless (Sennheiser EW100 G2 & G3) into a Behringer X32 with a Yamaha 01V as a band pre-mixer. We also automated the vocal mutes from QLab using OSC and a custom Python script. Lots of vocal mixing so your proposal of running the entire show from an iPad sounds terrifying.

I'd be happy to send you the mic plot we used for 28. We had planned for 24 but it was just too tight. Even 26 wasn't great, but 28 worked fine. We didn't have any interference issues, and iPad/laptop remote of the X32 over 2.4GHz WiFi was also reliable (but we mixed from the consoles).

Simon Eves