Call it the Tupac effect.
When Marty Tudor, executive producer and CEO of Base Hologram, and his colleagues saw the 2012 footage of a “hologram” of Tupac Shakur performing at Coachella, and then a singing and dancing image of Michael Jackson “performing” at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards, they thought, “Interesting … but it should be a full evening, not just one quick song and done.”
A few years later, Base Hologram created a Roy Orbison, and the “In Dreams: Roy Orbison in Concert” tour was birthed. The company is an offshoot of Base Entertainment, one of the largest producers of live entertainment in Las Vegas the past 40 years.
Orbison, who died in 1988, was tapped to star in a full live show because of his iconic status. “(His) music is still relevant. You hear ‘Pretty Woman’ as often as you hear today’s top hits,” Tudor said.
While the Tupac “hologram” was actually a series of techniques with reflections that dates back to the 16th century, an actual hologram of Orbison, along with the actual Georgia Symphony Orchestra, will take the stage at the Fox Theatre on Thursday.
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The evolution of these hologram performances has inspired much debate. Is it a tribute to a beloved artist and an opportunity for fans to witness a performer — even in shimmery form — they might never have seen in concert, or a crass cash grab? (Kaedy Kiely of The River 97.1 FM and I recently discussed the integrity of hologram tours on our podcast, “2 Girls Talking.”)
Tudor called in late summer to talk to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Kiely (hear the full interview at 971theriver.com) about the creation of Orbison’s hologram, why he thinks the concerts should be considered celebratory and just what fans can expect when “Roy Orbison” takes the stage.
Q: Explain as much as you can about the technological aspects of the production.
A: We create the image the same way that they created Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher (in “Rogue One”). From the day you say OK to the day you launch a show, it takes about a year to do. It’s a very elaborate, intense process, a lot of computer-generated work. We do use people in suits that you can track their performance and a lot of CGI work to create the actual look and feel of the artists. It’s a projected image; we project with a super military-grade projector, so it’s a 4K image that you see. It is truly the highest quality image you can get today. I was there when we showed it to Roy’s sons for the first time and literally, Alex Orbison started to cry.
Q: What other artists are you working on recapturing for “live” performances?
A: We have deals with other artists, but I’m not at liberty to say who. (Note: Since our interview, a 2019 Amy Winehouse tour created by Base Hologram has been announced.) We’re also doing Maria Callas (that show plays the Ferst Center for the Arts on Feb. 23). She’s still considered the greatest female soprano who ever lived. We want to give people an experience that they couldn’t have. We give the families we work with approval — not just consultation right — so they could kill it. We grew up in this business and we get it. We’re trying to be as respectful as we can.
Q: What can we expect from the show from a music perspective?
A: There are 16 songs in the set. They were chosen for us by the Orbison family; they gave us one of Roy’s set lists. When we do these shows, we approach it like they’re a piece of theater. Eric Schaeffer is the director — he did “Million Dollar Quartet.” With the Maria Callas (show), the director is Stephen Wadsworth. He directed “Master Class” on Broadway and is the head of the opera department at Juilliard, so that’s the level of quality we’re using. … We use local musicians, but our conductor is part of our team that travels with the show.
Q: What do you say to people who might look at this as, well, eerie?
A: I look at it as celebratory as opposed to creepy or eerie. But everyone is entitled to their opinion and I respect that. But there are other people who feel it’s really exciting and they’re coming to the show. … You look at performances (of deceased stars) all the time on TV and in the movies and you still see their performance. Why isn’t that creepy and this is? That doesn’t make sense.
Q: What’s the plan once this tour is over?
A: We’re doing 28 dates and then a residency in Branson (Mo.). That’s the plan for sometime next year. People (there) love to see great shows and they’re kind of country-oriented and Roy’s music is country-oriented. His family still lives in Nashville.
Q: No Vegas?
A: We’re not sure Vegas is the right environment. The shows there are more spectacle-oriented. That’s not what this is. We’re not trying to be some big spectacle, but we are trying to give an authentic experience.