Eventim Apollo in Florence Foster Jenkins
Date posted: 01.06.2016
Oscar-winner Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) and Hugh Grant (Love Actually) team up for the first time for Florence Foster Jenkins, a musical comedy about the famous New York heiress directed by Stephen Frears (Philomena).
The scene is 1940s New York. Florence Foster Jenkins, an ageing heiress and the highlight of the social scene, has one dream - to perform at Carnegie Hall. The voice she hears in her head is beautiful, but to everyone else, she sounds hilariously awful.
New York to London
Filming took place in spring and summer 2015, with London and Liverpool doubling for New York. For production designer Alan Macdonald, the film was a creative pleasure: "1940s New York is like Christmas and birthdays come at once for a designer."
London locations included Shoreditch Town Hall and the stunning Art Deco ballroom at the Park Lane Hotel. Eventim Apollo, previously known as Hammersmith Apollo, doubled for the major concert set-piece at New York's Carnegie Hall.
Transforming the location
Creating the interior of the famous Carnegie Hall inside the Apollo was a challenge on many levels. Adam Richards, Location Manager, explains: "The art department made detailed plans of the stage and auditorium. To make sure the set could fit into the available space, the set was pre-built off-site and then brought in in sections and bolted together."
While all this was happening, the location had to be pre-lit and cables run out. Talking about the reach of the task, Richards says "it was a military operation and had to run extremely smoothly so that the different departments weren't falling over each other." The residential areas around the building also meant there could be no vehicle movement around the theatre after 11pm or before 7am.
Sarah Myring, Front of House & Corporate Sales Manager at Eventim Apollo, describes what it was like seeing the building transformed: "Arriving on the first day of filming everything looked normal apart from a giant wooden box built over half the auditorium and stage. Once you stepped inside you were standing in Carnegie Hall, which was amazing."
The Apollo has housed numerous film productions in the past, but the lavish period detail on the production was still eye-popping for regular staff. Myring says "having people milling about our foyer in 1940s costume made you doubt what decade you were actually in. Walking through hundreds of extras in ball gowns and military uniforms on the forecourt whilst wearing jeans and trainers made everyone feel slightly underdressed!"
Myring was quick to praise the producers and crew: "[they] were really easy to work with and we always love taking on something that is outside our normal range of events."
The production made full use of areas beyond the auditorium, using dressing rooms and function areas for cast, production, costume and make-up, and the lobby and foyer area for catering and seating for their hundreds of extras.
The cooperation of the Apollo with such an extensive shoot was appreciated by the production. Richards says "The stage management, house electricians, and staff at the theatre, were all completely behind the project and incredibly supportive. Both the film crew and the in house staff worked closely together to make the whole process run effortlessly. No problem, or last minute request, was ever too much trouble."
About the location
Eventim Apollo, formerly the Hammersmith Apollo, is one of London's major live entertainment venues. It is located in Hammersmith, West London and is one of the UK's largest and best-preserved original theatres.
It opened in 1932 as the Gaumont Palace cinema and was designed in Art Deco style by renowned theatre architect Robert Cromie, who also designed the Prince of Wales Theatre in central London.
A multi-million pound refurbishment in 2013 by new owners AEG Live and Eventim was overseen by award-winning architects Foster Wilson.
Highlights include fixtures and fittings made to original designs, restoration of the ornate plasterwork and historically sensitive decoration to match the original paint scheme. The refurbishment also revives the two marble staircases previously concealed beneath the extended stage, as well as restoration of the original foyer floor mosaic panels, whilst in the circle the original windows are revealed, allowing natural light to once again flood the circle bar. Multi-coloured LED lighting on the facade helps the venue dazzle at night.
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