Romance, Terror, Temptation and Vari-Lite
Published Thursday, September 9, 2004

The current Broadway production of "Dracula" is a magnificent new musical vision of Bram Stoker's classic 1897 love story between Dracula, schoolmistress Mina Murray and her friend Lucy Westenra. It is also a lighting masterpiece by lighting designer Howell Binkley.

While "Dracula" is a passionate story of seduction, sexual repression and Gothic horror, it is also a creepy show visually, just as Binkley intended. Driving the show are 30 VL3000™ Spot luminaires positioned overhead for down lighting and at front of house for front fills, texturing and lighting scenic elements. Binkley said the color palette used by programmer Tom Celner mixes beautifully with the conventional fixtures in the lighting rig for a well-blended design.

All of the VARI*LITE® automated luminaires used in the show are provided by PRG.

"The VL3000 luminaires are just incredible," Binkley said. "They are a strong light, but they layer well with the conventional rig. It's just amazing. It's great having such a powerful light work well with the conventional system. With what the VL3000 Spot units are doing in the show, they accomplish everything I need."

In addition to use of gobo combinations and colors to establish moods and create the nearly 30 scenes in the show, the fast and powerful strobe mechanism of the VL3000 Spot units also gets a strong workout. Many of the sequences call for thick low ground fog, mist on the docks or ground smoke in the graveyards, which allows Binkley to color the air, adding to the eerie feel.

The production also incorporates complicated aerial flying and choreography. In addition to Dracula flying, many of the female cast members also soar above the stage in lengthy, flowing white costumes. The flying presented Binkley with a number of challenges. First, he mastered the art of not showing the wires attached to the performers. Second, he had to make the white costumes glow and maintain a consistent look as the actors moved about in the air.

And thirdly, he had to overcome the fact that although the ladies were dressed in white costumes, Dracula himself was completely robed in black. What makes white flowing dresses glow, doesn't have the same effect on a pitch-black cape.

"The VL3000 fixtures are used in just about all of the aerial scenes," Binkley explained. "I've found that UV works great for not showing the wires and lines. By keeping the lighting low and straight across, the audience doesn't see any pick-up lines at all. Lighting the flight of Dracula is a bit less complicated. He does pretty much a straight, vertical cross, so I'm able to even get a spot on his face. And he's got a huge collar that protects where his hook-up is attached."

Three VL1000™ fixtures positioned up front on the rail, and eight onstage as high-side crosslights give Binkley additional tools for lighting the aerial choreography. Using the VL1000 units with shutters, Binkley is able to frame off portals and doorways onstage.

"The VL1000s are a great unit," Binkley said. "I just love them. They kick ass."

"Dracula" is currently showing at the Belasco Theatre in New York.

Send this page to a friend