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- PAULE CONSTABLE ON THE ADB LIGHTING WARP/M
- DIRTY DANCING THE MUSICAL
- GLYNDEBOURNE OPERA HOUSE SELECTS MOTORIS...
DIRTY DANCING THE MUSICAL
The spectacular stage production of Dirty Dancing at the Neue Flora Theatre in Hamburg is using the high power, advanced shuttering capabilities and light quality of ADB's motorised WARP luminaire to light the front of the show's massive stage set.The theatre is one of Europe's largest, with a capacity of over 2,000, and its stage accommodates an enormous production that includes LED walls, Pani projections and over 150 automated lights. Other production elements include a 29 m rear projection screen, a curved LED wall which splits four panels built into the set and two full-sized radio controlled cars. The set itself includes a 12 metre outer revolve and an inner revolve which splits into three sections.
Dirty Dancing is the stage version - produced by Staged Entertainment - of Eleanor Bergstein's enormously successful 1987 film that starred Patrick Swayze. It features all the songs from the best-selling movie soundtrack of all time including "Time Of My Life", "Hungry Eyes", "Hey Baby" and "She's Like the Wind". Set in a holiday camp in America in 1963, Dirty Dancing is a coming-of-age story about a teenage girl who falls in love with a dance instructor during a family holiday.
With lighting design by Tim Mitchell and set design by Stephen Brimson-Lewis, the show is a unique mélange of theatre play, dance and music, and its 78 scenes feature a fluid variety of looks, designed to evoke different times of the day and the changing moods that go with them. While Mitchell describes the theatre as being "vast, great to work in, with lots of possibilities," its sheer size created its own challenges. "From a lighting point of view," he says, "there were a lot of problems to overcome. The rig had to be made to be highly flexible to create all the different looks we needed, but there are enormous distances involved because of the size of the place. "We have various specific fixtures that we use a lot of, but we had problems with front-of-house lighting in that we wanted a tungsten look - there's a lot of arc discharge sources on the show but they would have been a little harsh for front-of-house. "The problem out there is that the throws are huge between the FOH rig and the front of the stage, but there are very few tungsten units on the market that would deliver the tight beam angle required for the show. "I saw an ad in one of the trade media about the WARP/M, and read about the beam angle, and my assistant, Adrian Barnes, and I immediately decided to try it.
"So the theatre arranged a demo by ADB right there in the theatre, and I have to say I was amazed by how bright it was. It was very punchy, and the beam angle is around eight degrees. The other factor was the automation. From my point of view we had to have an entirely automated rig at FOH because the lighting bridges aren't great and we had to drop a truss under them, so it's physically impossible to get there to refocus. "The WARP/M offered great area coverage and brightness and it completely won hands-down. The shuttering is amazing, too: all the blades can go round 360 degrees, so with a circular set I could have all shutters on one side of the beam and shape it around the set. That one thing alone would have made it interesting, and the beam angles were spot-on so from our point of view it was simply a no-brainer."
Tim Mitchell continues the story. "The lighting, the set and the video needed to be absolutely seamless, so that the audience can't tell where one ends and another begins. There's also live camera action and at times the video screen looks like a wall in the set, while at others it can have images of people dancing or of scenery, or shows famous scenes from the film such as where Johnny Castle teaches Baby how to dance. "There are Pani projections of trees and skies, and it's all designed to illustrate the different times of day, which is what the piece is about, in an allegorical way. "So a lot of work is done on the backdrop screen, conveying times of day, clouds moving, sunrise and sunset and during a scene called the Magic Hour when everything comes to life at dusk. The scene is about memory and reflection, and it looks magical with all the colours slightly heightened.
"I needed to respond to that and to the fact that for quite a lot of the time, there are only two people on this huge stage, while at other times there are other 30-odd performers up there. "So we needed a lot of front-of-house lighting power to complement the other moving lights which dress the set, to give it times of day and locations, but also to make people ‘pop' so we can tell the story without them disappearing into the set."ADB's introduction of a gobo module for the WARP/M was also perfectly timed for the production, says Mitchell.
"We wanted to drop a gobo into the unit because a lot of scenes are set out of doors in North America, with woodland, pine trees and log cabins. This required a lot of break-up projections, and it happened that ADB were just about to bring out a gobo module and we were one of the first to use them, and they do the job perfectly. I have to say I instantly became a great lover of it - a quiet, bright, focusable tungsten moving light."