I recently saw the phantom of the opera, and during a few scenes there were candles that seemed to rise up and float just above stages and move all around, maybe in patterns..can anyone tell me what this effect is and how its done?
I've seen it a couple of times and as far as I can tell there's no big trick to it. Just a bunch of trap doors and tracks in the floor. Roll a little dry ice fog through and "BAM" it's magic. The real magic of those mysterious scenes under the opera house is just beautiful look. You get distracted by the over all beauty of the scene something simple appears to be a magical trick.
Most big shows like this have their own custom floor that they bring with them on the truck. It installs over the actual housestage. This allows them to build all kinds of little tricks into the floor just for the show.
This is assuming you weren't talking about the Vegas show. I unfortunately haven't seen it, but it's really loaded with cool special effects. In that case you may have seen all kinds of crazy stuff. They built the theater for the show. It's a domed theater. They have these cables that run on motorized tracks up the arched supports of the dome all the way around. These cables are connected to the central chandelier. They have so much control with this crazy cable system they can split the chandelier into three pieces and fly them around the room like flying saucers. It's something else.
Phantom's load in is really all about rigging. There are so many things that go up in the air it's nuts.
The one that I think impresses me the most is the Miss Saigon national tour. That thing is HUGE. There are so many large set pieces, so many drops and set locations just keep on coming and don't forget... the Helicopter, the Car, and the massive Statue. That must be one impressive load in.