Country Meets Broadway in Taylor Swift’s ‘Speak Now’ Tour

Posted by Brendan Brehm on Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Taylor Swift Set Design

As one of country music’s youngest stars, Taylor Swift knows exactly what the “millenials” expect from a concert. Anything less then a visual extravaganza just won’t cut it these days. Although she started out performing with just a guitar and her voice, her current tour, Speak Now, is an elaborate stage production that combines country music and Broadway; and now that she is backed by an eight-piece band, she can put down the guitar and move around as if in a Broadway production. The Speak Now world tour is currently making its way through the U.S and will continue through March of next year, when Swift wraps things up in Australia.

Speak Now is Swift’s second tour, preceded by 2009’s Fearless. With Fearless, Swift began to work in the theatrical style that would completely take over in the Speak Now tour. Fearless featured a mix of graphics, visual displays, and sets that Swift designed in collaboration with  production designer Jonathan Smeeton. For her first tour, the stage design was anything but timid. A 60’x20’ LED back wall glowed with visual accompaniments, while further upstage, five towers and two risers received colorful projections. The multiple visual layers gave the performance great depth and Swift appeared immersed in the world of her songs.

Today Was a Fairytale set

For the Speak Now tour, Swift brought in light and production designer, Baz Halpin, whose long list of show credits includes artists such as Mariah Carey, Roxy Music, Joe Cocker, and Jurassic 5. Working with Halpin was a team from Silent House Production, a full-service production company based out of Los Angeles, California. Together they shaped Swift’s theatrical vision into a two-hour whirlwind of scenery changes, dancing, pyrotechnics, mist, confetti, aerialists, and lighted trees. High-tech lighting and pyrotechnics aren’t anything new in the realm of rock concerts, but in Swift’s show, these visual elements are used to tell a story rather than just accent the music or garner oohs-and-aahs. Speak Now isn’t, however, a country-pop musical, but a series of vignettes flowing into each other without an overarching theme: “I didn’t want to tell one big story. I wanted each song to have its own story,” Swift told Billboard magazine.

Taylor Swift Speak Now Tour

Over the course of the performance, various backgrounds include a glittery Broadway stage, a Southern front porch, a chapel, an enchanted forest, and then a haunted forest. Aside from Swift, these changing scenes are populated by her band and a troupe of dancers that can perform both ballet and acrobatics. Swift designed each setting so that it would resonate with a particular song and amplify the effect on the audience. When she is sitting down on the front porch, she plays the more country sounding songs of the line up. Then, when she finds herself in a forest of magical light and moving trees, she launches into “Enchanted.” The imaginative and fairytale-like world she has created in Speak Now is certainly one of the reasons her tour has been so successful. Rather than the shock factor that so many musical acts depend on, Swift has crafted a nostalgic atmosphere that invokes the youthful imagination of the audience.

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