I know everyone's celebrated New Years already, but think I’ll wait until later this summer. That's when a project I’ve been working on for almost two years will have come to fruition. That’s when The Voice Vegas - a 360-degree live concert event with an interactive pre-show Voice experience - will open its doors to the public. This project has felt like a baby being conceived, nurtured and birthed out to the world. I feel very close to it.
What started out as a simple hotel lobby renovation in summer 2016 has evolved and morphed (in a good way) into a permanent, 3-story, 800-seat theatre. Oh! And did I mention we’re building it from the ground up? The Voice: Neon Dreams (official title) will be a marquee attraction for The Hard Rock Hotel (a fitting bedfellow for a music-driven show such as The Voice). What I - and a group of supremely talented producers and creators - have so diligently been working on since 2016 will soon be realized as a brand new lobby, audition space, box office, gift shop, and overall immersive Voice experience all blended into one. This one grew and grew on us, and we couldn’t be happier that it did. We never wanted to let go.
This isn’t the first time we’ve been tasked with building a giant structure - we just built an epic barn for a new show with Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman for NBC - but the sheer scope of this project is beyond anything we’ve encountered. The Voice Vegas is filled with so many aspects of design - it’s both challenging and surprising. I’ve found that from a logistics standpoint, designing around a live show that aims to be interactive with a large audience is VERY different from designing for a TV show on a soundstage. So I’m learning as I go. And I LOVE learning as I go. It’s my lifeblood as a designer and I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve had this opportunity.
So, while we’ve broken ground in Las Vegas and the concept has been approved, the next phase of the process - ironing out all the millions of design details of this whole thing - is really just beginning. I’ve flown to the middle of the country to meet with two different specialty vendors for the chairs (we’ve elected to make the chairs and the premium seats are designed to swivel as if you’re a Voice coach). I’ve chosen and advised on everything you can think of from toilets, lighting fixtures, elevators, door hardware, concrete finishes, exterior finishes, railings, paint colors, grout colors, not to mention all of the surrounding landscaping and greenery. Now, I just need to figure out all the nuts and bolts and exactly what every hallway, handrail, video surface, lighting fixture, etc. should ultimately look and function like. (No pressure!)
And yet, with all the new challenges associated with designing a permanent structure that’s safe for the public and built to last (as opposed to being disassembled after each season), the core of my design process is EXACTLY the same. Whether I’m designing a space for people to sit in at a show or to watch on TV, I put myself into the project and imagine the space I’m going to inhabit. I pretend I’m Bill Nye, or I’m an artist competing on The Voice, or any talent standing in the environment I’m creating. How do I want to feel? How do I want to act? How do I want the space to act for that person?
For The Voice Vegas: Neon Dreams, I’m designing for the audience member, not the talent. I’m designing with the show’s narrative very much in the forefront of my mind, but just as importantly, I’m imagining myself going through all of the different spaces and touchpoints that the show experience offers. I’m imagining myself getting off a plane from Ohio or Chicago or Hong Kong, coming to audition for my favorite show in a custom high-tech booth (yes, you will be able to audition for a spot on The Voice in special recording audition booths we’re designing for the lobby and box office area) and experiencing a high-octane, 360-degree theatrical production. When the lights go down, I’m drowning in theatricality, surrounded by video and technology. I want to be WOWED.
This show is going to deliver that WOW. I promise… So, excuse me while I crawl into a hole for the next three months. And stay tuned for updates.