Behind The Scenes: Set Design

We asked set designer Alan Bower where he got his inspiration for the set of Elf the Musical Jr…

“As a designer there are three things that are imperative to think about. Firstly the script. You need to remain true to the story. Secondly the director’s concept, which in this case was simple but effective – key elements to carry the story and indeed the audience through the show by creating the world of the piece. Thirdly (and arguably the most important) research, Research, RESEARCH.  You need visual imagery to inspire you to create the settings.

I initially met with the director to thrash out ideas and do some on-the-spot pencil sketches throwing ideas about until we came across some vague formats for each of the scenes. With Elf the Musical Jr my biggest challenge was the almost instantaneous change from, what I called to myself, Santa Land to urban Manhattan. I would tell you more, but I don’t want to give too much away until the production is realised.

More detailed colour sketches were then realised, detailing every scene and movement around the stage. These get sent to the director for their approval or for any changes. Thankfully in this case there were very few and I could move onto the next stage!

Once the director has given approval for the ideas, it is on to what we in the industry call ‘the model box stage’. This is where you create a completely accurate scale model of the theatre and make scale models of each of the individual set pieces. The scale is 1:25, meaning that 1cm in the model is 25cm in real life. This needs to be very accurate as this is how we make sure the set will fit in the theatre! This is the stage I am at now. Rough and colour sketches have been drawn up and the full colour model has been approved by the director. All of the team, both on and off stage, work together to transfer this into reality…. I can’t wait to see the finished production!”