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Teen People's TV-Ready Concert

November 20, 2001, 12:00 AM EST

For the Teen People What's Next concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom, a gleaming steel set placed performers including Blu Cantrell, in the middle of the crowd.

Teen People's What's Next concertHammerstein BallroomWednesday, 11.14.01, 7 PM onward
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One of the main challenges of producing a concert event that's filmed for a television broadcast is putting on a show that plays to both the crowd and the TV cameras. Tony Richards, a former MTV event producer who is now the director of production at Manhattan Center Studios, tackled this at Teen People's What's Next concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom. The stage, designed by Richards, freelancer on Freeny and another freelance set designer and built by Chris Myers of Composition Workshop, featured an arm-like extension that snaked into the audience pit, placing the main musical act in the middle of the throng of screaming fans. Richards told us that having the act in the middle of the pit like that creates more energy and excitement among the audience, and allows the musician to interact with them directly. (The screaming fans in the audience almost pulled rapper Ja Rule's pants down.) The stage extension also made it easy on the camera crew, who could shoot each performer from numerous angles because they were physically distanced from the rest of the band.

The rest of the set consisted of three large video screens framed by gleaming silver steel. Myers alternated between reflective and brushed steel surfaces, allowing lighting designer Rob Strohmeier of Strohmeier Lighting to maximize his lighting design for a dramatic, colorful effect. For Blu Cantrell's performance, Strohmeier washed the stage in rich violet-colored lights, and hazers off to the side created a slightly smoky, textured effect in front of the video screens. Between acts, patterned gobos flickered on and off the stage, and the producers distracted the audience by playing music videos and commercials from event sponsors Coke, Levi's and the WB
(which will broadcast the event on Monday, November 26).

The magazine packed the concert with approximately 1,200 excited, screaming teens from New York high schools that were affected by the World Trade Center collapse, including Stuyvesant High, which was shut down for several days following the attacks.

Following the evening's final act, a performance by Alicia Keys (who we saw at a Rock and Wrap It Up event honoring MTV event chief Leslie Leventman), hundreds of adult guests (including guests of the event sponsors and the magazine's advertisers) made their way up to the seventh-floor Grand Ballroom for an after-party catered by Tentation. Four circular bed-seats covered with an array of brightly-colored, fluffy pillows surrounded the dance floor, and flowers from Aisling Flowers decorated the bars. The after-party went until two in the morning, and Richards' team broke down the set in preparation for an event the next night.

--Suzanne Ito

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