The Feature is a continuation of Jason Bovaird on Lighting The Scottsboro Boys and Broadway – Part I:
Rehearsals resumed at 7pm with stop/starts and the continuation of moving through the show. Updates and recueing continued. What is very interesting with the technical rehearsal is that the Associate Director is the one who runs the rehearsal, not the stage manager. The stage manager is at the production desk learning the call of the show. The technical rehearsal went through till 11:30pm and cast were released. A production meeting was then called, again run by the Associate Director of the show and not the stage manager which is certainly not how it is done in Australia. Production meeting finished at 12:45am.
Sunday morning was taken up with the morning session of fixing cues with moving light positions and adding in any extra light that was required in the cues.
Technical rehearsal began at 1pm and went through until 6pm before dinner was taken from 6-7pm.
We returned for technical rehearsal, beginning at 7pm, and working through to the end of the show. This particular technical rehearsal was quite long due to the difficulty of the lighting plot and the show's storyline becomes considerably more complex as it progresses, requiring the lighting to tell the story a lot more. The finale scene is a bright, bold number where the portals front-flip out to reveal a whole lot of light bulbs to act as a chase around them.
Watching this entire three days has been one of the most riveting experiences of my life and as a lighting designer it has cemented tricks of the trade that I have been wanting to work out for the last couple of years. One particular thing that became apparent during this was how much involvement Ken's assistant John had during the whole process. Many of his jobs entailed things such as remembering where moving lights were in various scenes, patch notes, focus notes of the show, etc. This information is vital to the flowing of the technical rehearsal as the time is so short during this process.
Tuesday resumed with the first full technical rehearsal of the show from the start through to the end. The morning consisted of a lot of fix-ups with the set, due to the fact that it had to be reduced from the original size that was done on Broadway to a much smaller touring version – and remembering that it has to be able to fit into a theatre in San Fransisco, Los Angeles, and other Nothern-American theatres. The biggest issues they will have with this is that the first lighting bar must be able to be 2.6 metres from the setting line as many of the lighting shots are done from this first lighting bar. This show is completely light-driven as each moment is achieved through the aid in lighting.
The afternoon was spent running the technical rehearsal with the orchestra, lights, audio flys, etc. and ran extremely smoothly. The Associate Lighting Designer (John) called the dome cues through the technical rehearsal which finished at around 5pm.
Dinner was taken and the first dress rehearsal began at around 7:30pm. The dress rehearsal was very slow and the dome operators certainly were not hitting their mark even with them being called by the associate lighting designer. There were other issues that arose during the technical rehearsal particularly with the shadow play that was on during the show. The main problem with it is the cardboard cutouts of the animation characters, due to their flimsiness.
Wednesday and Thursday consisted of dress rehearsals and working on scenes where necessary.
Friday was the first preview performance where director Susan Stroman (pictured below) was in attendance to see the show. I was fortunate enough to spend time with her in the afternoon as Ken and John were working on lighting cues with her and discussing various elements of the show.
The preview received a standing ovation and was extremely well received by the audience.
I then headed back to New York to spend time seeing shows and attending backstage tours of theatres, that Ken had organised for me.
Spider-Man was certainly an amazing production to see from a technical point of view. Speaking with a number of the crew from the show, and having seen a backstage tour, the show consisted of around one hundred fly lines, over two thousand lighting cues and, when the show was first out in the theatre, the stage had to be dug up five to seven metres below to cater for all the hydraulics in the flooring that lift up the floor during the show. The side wings are all LED-controlled and are also on an automation system that allows them to move on a step angle onto the stage.
The flying system works on a triple axis that allows the performers to be able to fly around the theatre in a 360-degree motion with another performer flying on the top part of them. This system (pictured below) is in the middle of the auditorium and there is also a fly system up in the grid onstage.
Chicago, that has been playing at the Ambassador Theatre, NY for the past 16 years, has not changed since it opened. I was fortunate enough to go backstage and watch the lamp warm up as Ken is the original lighting designer of the show. Speaking with him, he told me that he plotted this show in eight hours and he has never changed it since the day it opened. The lighting board operator for this show does not sit out front of house but she sits side of stage on PS and follows a monitor. The Head Electrician (Luciana) is in charge of the entire lighting for the show including the 'look' of the show and if any changes are required she is to contact the lighting designer. The show consists of 350 conventionals and around twenty VL3000 moving lights. One of the ingenious inventions that the show has is the 'Hersey' automated cyc. units that move up and down and side by side. This is used in “When Velma Takes The Stand” and is flown out at the end. Fifteen years ago this idea was way ahead of its time. Chicago lighting is run on an ETC Expression which was one of the first ETC lighting desks.
Sister Act, playing at The Broadway Theatre, has, like the other shows playing currently, large and extravagant sets, once again with the use of LED lighting. This is particularly evident with the finale where all the side wings that act as church windows become LED Panels and chase dramatically throughout the finale. There is a large statue of the Virgin Mary at the back of the stage that is made from a chrome material so when the lights hit it it gleams considerably. The lighting designer of this show (Natasha Katz) has designed this considerably differently to how Ken Billington would or even Howell Blinkley (Memphis, Jersey Boys) as she allows the LED panels to do all the work and uses the lighting to just enhance the production. This show also has very extravagant costumes and plenty of sequins and bling so, in turn, any light she throws on them they will provide enough colour and movement for the show.
Jason is returning to America soon to pursue a number of other ventures.