Martin the only fixture bright enough for Hairspray!

Posted on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010


Big hair, big heart, big hopes and an even bigger production – welcome to Hairspray the Musical!

Playing at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre this production features stunning ’60s costumes and an equally colourful set thanks to a first class Australian creative team who incorporate new state-of-the-art technologies, direction, choreography and design.

The proscenium arch is trimmed with LED ropes that outline a giant television through which you view all on-stage action. There are four legs, which are individual LED screens, either side of the stage plus at the back is one large LED screen that can split into three when required and can move upstage, downstage, up and down. In fact the stage set is entirely digital and animated.

It is an idea that director David Atkins OAM has been mulling upon for some time and with the assistance of designer Eamon D’Arcy has brought to life with a visual assault never seen before in theatre!

The LED screens deliver an impressive animated depth of field, brightness and quite amazing colour. Characters interact with the screens (opening windows, writing on blackboards, etc.) and even jump ‘in’ and ‘out’ of them to the absolute delight of the audience.

The LED screens allow for filmic transitions simply not possible with conventional sets. With a strong cartoon influence, sets bounce into place, bop along with the music, and allow characters to enter dream sequences or unconsciously communicate their thoughts.

Lighting designer Trudy Dalgleish describes this production as totally ground-breaking.

“People are likening it to when Cats first opened and the set was bought into the auditorium,” she said. “It was a completely new way of presenting theatre and this show sets a new bench mark in much the same way. The whole show is like a cartoon that the cast interacts with so there is continual media on the screens throughout the show. Lighting wise this presents huge challenges particularly to make it bright enough to ‘pull’ people out of that content. Also, as most of the time the cast are interacting with the screens they are usually only 500mm away from the screen.

“We run the LED screens at about 8 – 12% intensity and you can throw quite a bit of light onto that as they seem to soak it up.”

Trudy needed a bright, punchy moving head light to compete with the LED screens and she immediately opted for her favourite fixture – the Martin MAC2000 XB of which there are thirty-one.

”They were basically the workhorse of the show and really they did most of the lighting. They are really, really bright. The MAC2000 was very bright but these are amazing. David Atkins asked me to meld the actor’s world into the cartoon world so I had to continue the content from the screens onto the stage. The content on the screens has very saturated colour which means I had to use saturated colour too which the MAC2000 XB allows.

“The MAC2000 XB washes performed really well in fact they were excellent. I was going to use Vari*lite 3000 washes but when we compared the two units we found that the MAC2000 XB’s were four times as bright. I’m a real of the MAC2000 wash lights, it’s the best wash light made since the VL500 twenty years ago. It floods fantastically, spots fantastically and has really good colour. It’s one of the best light ever made!”

Whilst the MAC2000 XB wash lights enveloped the stage with their light Trudy used fourteen Martin MAC 301 LED washes for highlighting.

“That worked really well and I was very impressed by their intensity for such a small unit so I’ll sing their praises too!” she declared. “They’re a great little fixture and very versatile.”

Control was by a MA Lighting grandMA consoles with a grandMA light as a spare. The media content for the screens was not handled by the grandMA as it was easier to have a stand alone control system. Follow spots were four Robert Juliat Aramis. All lighting was supplied by Bytecraft Entertainment.