How smart lighting design revived The Music Man

posted on Saturday, 2nd July 2022 by Steve May

Lighting Control  lighting Design  Pro AV 

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Meredith Wilson’s Broadway hit The Music Man has been brought to life with a veritable marching band of lighting solutions from lighting design by PRG and Martin Professional, including MAC Viper, MAC Encore Performance and the new MAC Ultra Performance and Ultra Wash fixtures.

Written by Meredith Willson and originally staged in 1957, The Music Man is a Broadway classic that’s won numerous Tony awards and has been staged by countless theatre companies ove the past 75 years.

This latest interpretation, starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster, opened February 2022, at the Winter Garden Theatre.

In order to ensure immersive visual experiences, director Jerry Zaks worked with costume designer Santo Loquasto and lighting designer Brian MacDevitt to create a production that felt modern while retaining the old-fashioned appeal of the original production.

To accomplish this, MacDevitt needed state-of-the-art LED lighting fixtures that evoked the natural quality of incandescent lighting while offering contemporary features like automated effects and colour changes.

Introducing MAC Ultra Performance

At the recommendation of associate lighting designer Nick Solyom and lighting programmer David Arch, MacDevitt selected an array of Martin MAC fixtures, including the new MAC Ultra Performance, for their brightness, colour temperature and ease-of-use.

“I’m old school; I grew up on incandescent lighting and I want the actors and sets in my shows to appear natural,” said MacDevitt. “In the past decade, I’ve struggled to find my palette as the entire industry moved to LED fixtures. For a while it was really hard to pull off realistic looking sunlight or interior lighting. When I first discovered the Martin MAC Encore WRM, it felt like I had finally found a new fixture that reminded me of incandescent lighting. And the new MAC Ultra fixtures do an excellent job of sunlight.”

“I’m old school; I grew up on incandescent lighting and I want the actors and sets in my shows to appear natural,” said MacDevitt. “In the past decade, I’ve struggled to find my palette as the entire industry moved to LED fixtures. For a while it was really hard to pull off realistic looking sunlight or interior lighting. When I first discovered the Martin MAC Encore WRM, it felt like I had finally found a new fixture that reminded me of incandescent lighting. And the new MAC Ultra fixtures do an excellent job of sunlight.”

MacDevitt’s lighting team deployed a full array of Martin fixtures to fill various roles in the lighting design. The team utilised Martin MAC Ultra Performance fixtures hung from balcony rails to illuminate Santo Loquasto’s scenery. The MAC Ultra Performance’s unmatched brightness and colour temperature helped MacDevitt achieve the natural-looking sunlight he was aiming for, and its ultra-low operating noise enabled them to deploy the fixtures very close to the audience without disturbing their listening experience. MacDevitt also selected MAC Ultra Wash fixtures to backlight the performers. For the performers’ key light, MacDevitt chose MAC Encore WRM fixtures for their authentic incandescent appearance.

“In my experience, these Martin fixtures are the best I can get for natural-looking light,” said MacDevitt. “Between the Ultras and the Encores, I’ve found the incandescent palette that I’ve been missing for years. I’m really proud of this lighting design, and my team for pulling it off. The producers are really happy with how it came out.”

For area lights, the team deployed MAC Viper Performance fixtures. The ubiquity and long-standing reputation of Martin MAC fixtures helped associate lighting designer Nick Solyom and programmer David Arch achieve the nuances of MacDevitt’s lighting design with confidence and comfortability, even though it was their first time using the new MAC Ultra fixtures.

“The Ultra Performance shines in our front-of-house positions—we use its full field shutter, zoomed wide to follow drops in and out," said Solyom. "The Ultra Wash units are onstage and its zoom range lets us use it as a backlight for a single person, or a full stage wash. I don't think there's another wash fixture doing what the Ultra Wash does. I would recommend the Ultra Performance and Ultra Wash for any new Broadway musical that’s going for big and bright. Other fixtures will either cost a lot in lamp changes, or they simply won’t be bright enough. The Ultra doesn’t have either of those problems.”

“I hadn’t seen the Ultra Performance before The Music Man,” said Arch. “The Ultra gives unmatched brightness out of the gate, and it’s a beautiful light. The feature set is quite easy to step in and program. I’m fixture-agnostic, but as a programmer, working with Martin fixtures has a consistent and familiar feel across the different models and generations. If I get hired for a show and I see that there’s Encores, Ultras and Vipers, I don’t have to think twice about how to get the effect I want out of each fixture. It’s like riding a bike. And the one time I wasn’t able to figure out how to get a specific fixture to do something I wanted, my Martin rep connected me immediately to the head of research and development to sort out the issue. You can’t beat that kind of customer service.”

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology specialist who also writes for T3TechRadarHome Cinema Choice, Trusted Reviews and The Luxe Review.

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