Andrew Lloyd Webber and Time Rice's Evita has returned to Broadway for the first time in thirty years, in a sizzling, scintillating new production directed by Michael Grandage, choreographed by Rob Ashford, designed by Christopher Oram with lighting by Tony- and Olivier-award winning lighting designer Neil Austin - who received both Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations for the show's lighting.
To keep track of that lighting as it was created and then what for what looks certain to be a long, successful run, Austin and his team turned to FocusTrack to document the lighting rig, and to SpotTrack to document the show's four followspots.
The rig itself is made up pre-dominantly of tungsten moving lights, including ETC Revolutions, Martin TW1s, Vari-Lite VL5Bs and DHA Pitching Digital Light Curtains, with some discharge punch then provided by VL1000AS fixtures and PRG's new Best Boy 4000, which made its Broadway debut on the show. The lighting is controlled from an ETC Eos console, programmed by Rob Halliday and now run by head electrician Kevin Barry.
As they have done on many other shows together and separately, Barry and Halliday used FocusTrack both to simplify the task of figuring out which lights were actually used in which positions (FocusTrack generates this information, as well as lists of which colours and gobos are actually used, automatically from the console showfile) and then to create a photographic record of each focus in record time.
"FocusTrack showed just over 900 lamp-focuses for Evita," Halliday notes, "so an average of about nine positions for each of our 110 moving lights. Add in some extra pictures - of whole washes of lights as well as individual fixtures, and photos from the side of the stage to show the shutter cuts of cross light, and that was a total of about 940 pictures. We wanted to do this with all of the scenery and props in the right place, and always said we could safely do that photo shoot in eight hours, and probably do it in four if there were no hold ups. We were given three, in the morning before a matinee... and we achieved that. That meant we took five pictures a minute, or one every twelve seconds - and actually we worked faster, because we took time setting everything up, moving scenery, even having a proper coffee break along the way!"
FocusTrack makes this speed of working possible by linking to the console and the digital camera, getting each light into the right place before triggering the camera to take a picture. Once finished it then imports the pictures automatically, to give a complete, accurate record that allows the crew to maintain the rig. For Evita, Halliday also used FocusTrack's QuickFocus grid to show critical lights in key cues. "This is an update to FocusTrack since I used it on Billy Elliot," Kevin Barry notes, "and I think it's an extremely useful - now I can see an overview of how a state is made during a busy number or zoom in on the detail of a specific light when I have more time. My lighting rigs keep getting bigger and it's impossible to imagine maintaining it all without FocusTrack."
To round things off, when a little more time opened up in the schedule Halliday, Barry, associate lighting designer Dan Walker and assistant lighting designer Kristina Kloss also took the opportunity to photograph the show's conventional focuses, another 300-or-so pictures including front views of each light, additional side views of crosslight plus shots of the show's many practical fittings. FocusTrack again integrated control of the console and camera, with the pictures brought into FocusTrack's RigTrack module to ensure that the same level of detail available for the automated rig was also available for the conventional rig.
Also used on the show was FocusTrack's companion, SpotTrack, used by Kristina Kloss to generate and manage followspot cue sheets for Evita's four followspots - two side auditorium Lycians and two side-stage Pani beamlights. SpotTrack allowed the easy generation and updating of individual spot cue sheets and caller cue sheets for Kloss and head spotlight operator Brian Aman. "SpotTrack takes the business of entering followspot cue data and simplifies it with everything in its place and a place for everything," Kloss notes. "The keyboard shortcuts make entering data faster so you have more time to look at the stage; it's simple to use and yet versatile enough for even a complex Broadway show like Evita."
Evita joins a number of other shows that have used FocusTrack on Broadway this season, including The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, Nice Work If You Can Get It and Once, as well as long-running hits such as Anything Goes, Mary Poppins and Sister Act. Co-incidentally, Evita is at the theatre where FocusTrack made its Broadway debut with The Woman in White.
Those near Broadway next week will be able to find out more about FocusTrack and SpotTrack at the Broadway Lighting Master Class, at which Evita is the featured show and at which Rob Halliday will be speaking about FocusTrack on May 23rd.