Students on the University of Chichester’s renowned BA (Hons) Musical Theatre (Triple Threat) degree course - those with the ambition to act, sing and dance - showcased their talents recently in a musical theatre double bill. The shows, staged at the Regis Centre’s Alexandra Theatre, also featured another multi-talented performer, the Vari-Lite VLZ PROFILE.
The back-to-back productions - Cole Porter’s Anything Goes and Kiss Me Kate - aimed to provide a professional standard stage environment for the budding musical stars, with production values to match. Lighting designer Andrew Bruce of Quantum Creative was called in to fulfil the lighting design brief, working closely with the creative teams including directors Ed Burnside (Anything Goes), Karen Howard (Kiss Me Kate) and production designer Ryan Laight.
“I was able to experiment as I wanted with fixtures, color, position and effects choices, providing the directors’ requests were understood and achieved,” says Bruce. “The University gives me the environment to showcase the students’ work, but still allows me a platform to experiment and push for new technology.”
Among the new technology in action was the VLZ PROFILE, which Bruce had the opportunity to try out in a real show environment for the first time. Part of the VLZ range, the LED generation successor to the popular Vari-Lite VL3500 fixtures, the VLZ PROFILE has already impressed on stages from LA Opera to Béjart Ballet Lausanne and Copenhagen’s Royal Danish Theatre.
Bruce says, “Amber Etra at Vari-Lite highlighted the VLZ PROFILE and its range - along with other fixtures in their ever-expanding product line - to myself and the rest of Team Quantum. The VLZ range has a strong emphasis on the consistency of source, plus a vast array of attributes suited to the varying marketplaces that we work in. Amber was right - the fixture certainly provides a strong set of possibilities, which I was able to deploy throughout both shows.”
Bruce says lighting design for a musical production has a dual role: to support the story-telling of the writers and composers, and to take the audience on a suspended-reality journey. “As a designer, I want a set of tools that gives me the scope to achieve those fundamental roles,” he says.
His brief for Kiss Me Kate included the creation of clear, defined spaces for the performers, and a color palette to complement the production’s Tudor-period costumes. “A broad but rich palette allowed for moments of subtle color temperature changes, contrasted with full shifts of saturated color to intensify key scripted moments,” says Bruce.
Anything Goes, meanwhile, gave scope for strong, rich, high contrast looks. “An ‘MGM filmic style’ was Ed’s request for the overall aesthetic,” Bruce continues, “but with scope to push into musical fantasy where appropriate. Most scenes are set on the ship’s deck: color temperature, cyclorama sunset color shifting and changes in key-, side- and back-light and the dominant light source direction, gave me a strong set of workable tools to achieve Ed’s creative vision.”
Bruce positioned the VLZ PROFILEs as part of his overhead rig to take full advantage of their versatility. “They provide a lot in one fixture,” he says. “I was able to use them for strong, wide gobo break-up cover, as well as tight ‘ACL style’ button cues or snap pick-ups.
“The ability to have a gobo in the optical path fully out of focus with a wash on stage, quickly becomes a way of building a fast change in the overall aesthetic, when you can crash to the opposite end of the zoom train and have sharp gobo cover onstage, or a slower gradual morph from one focus to another. This was handy for pulling into and out of different locations, as well as snapping into musical numbers.
“The fixture’s attributes gave me an excellent facility to cut through the bulk of the main rig when I needed that extra punch, or just to show a dominant light source. The CMY module, combined with variable CTO and zoom/focus allowed me to get those crisper discharge source aesthetics, but without losing the richness and warmth of a typical tungsten sourced fixture. The evenness of field and smooth dimming impressed me . . . A theatrically orientated standard gobo load, full plane framing shutters, smooth dimming and consistent color mixing engine gave me exactly what I needed.”
He adds, “From my observations, the VLZ is a strong contender to rival a 1200-1500W discharge sourced moving light, but with all of the benefits of LED . . . They are definitely a family of fixtures I would recommend to designers looking for a solid workhorse overhead fixture, given the strong range of attributes under the covers. We’ll certainly be happy to see these on more of our projects across the different genres we operate within.”