VariLite and ETC Make a “Wicked” Theatre Combination

Posted on Friday, October 3rd, 2008

It seems that Melbourne is awash with world famous musicals at the moment, with crowds flocking to see Guys and Dolls, Wicked and Spamalot. And what do these three productions have in common apart from rave reviews? They all rely on the winning combination of ETC analogue lighting and Vari*Lite moving lights to produce their stunning lighting designs.

The Regent Theatre is playing host to Wicked, the untold story of the witches of Oz, which is fabulously lit by Kenneth Possner. It utilizes 12 x Vari*Lite 3000Q Spots, 17 x Vari*Lite 3000 Spots, 32 x Vari*Lite 2500 Spots, 26 x Vari*Lite 2500 Washs and a whopping 278 ETC Source 4 fixtures.

The Princess Theatre is home to Guys and Dolls which was originally lit by Howard Harrison and his associate James Whiteside. The rig contains 10 x VL3500Q Spots, 4 x VL3000 Q Washs, 3 x VL2000 Spots, 8 x VL2000 Washs and 69 ETC Source 4 fixtures. Added to that are six ETC Revolution fixtures.

Over at Her Majesty’s Theatre Spamalot, originally designed by Hugh Vanstone, was using 15 x VL3000 Q Spots, 10 x VL2500 Spots, 14 x VL2500 Washs, 18 x VL500s and heaps of Source 4 fixtures.

What else do these productions have in common apart from amazing lighting and lighting products? The talented Hugh Hamilton! Hugh worked as Production Electrician on Spamalot and Wicked as well as Associate Lighting Designer on Guys and Dolls. And Hugh just loves his Vari-Lites.

“Vari-Lites have the best output and their zoom is absolutely amazing,” he commented. “They go from 60? to narrow with a single fixture. Their brightness, even field, easy maintenance means that theatre designers are always specifying Vari-Lites. The VL3000s are particularly bright and the new VL2500 washes and spot are great with their new dimmer modules – the glass enables a much better fade than with solid metal blades.

“I think at the moment Vari-Lites are definitely the new unit on the block and there’s a lot of money being invested in them. Meanwhile their competition’s products are getting older and so everyone is buying Vari-Lites.”

Hugh describes the ETC Source 4 fixture as the workhorse for theatre lighting in Australia. For the first time, Hugh is also using the ETC MultiPARs on Wicked and he describes them as having a lot of output.

“They’re a handy batten,” he said. “As for the Source 4, there’s really no other profile competitor in the industry that can match the reputation of it. I found the Revolutions very entertaining. They’re reliable and their inter-changeable pieces are great. I used the shutter kit on Priscilla and the twin rotating wheels on Guys and Dolls – the way you can drop in and out modules is neat. They’re also the same colour temperature as the rest of the Source 4 rig which is good.”