PITTSBURGH – There are some musicals that could be placed in virtually any setting. Newsies is not one of them. A sense of place and time rumbles through this tale of the 1899 New York City newsboys strike like some turn-of-the-century subway train, endowing it with a gritty power that pulls modern audiences into its gas lit world of street urchins and gilded age tycoons.
In a recent production of the Alan Menken-Jack Feldman Tony Award winning musical at Pittsburgh’s iconic State Theatre, Amanda Frazier helped call forth the play’s historic context by accentuating its evocative scenic elements with a vivid lighting design that featured CHAUVET Professional lighting fixtures supplied by Vincent Lighting.
Working with Noland Jenkins, Production Manager of Vincent Lighting Systems, Frazier selected 15 Rogue R2 Washes for her rig. She used nine of the RGBW moving fixtures for top lighting, and six for side lighting. Drawing on the color rendering capabilities of the Rogue units, she subtly shifted palettes throughout the play to reflect different scenes, all while underscoring the turn-of-the-century New York setting.
“I assigned colors to absolute moods as themes,” said Frazier. “I went with lavenders and ambers for dreams, crisp whites for hope, saturated blues and reds for confrontation, etc. Most of the set and costumes ranged in a muted palette, so any saturation really shifted the scene and stood out.”
Employing different beam positions and focuses to build upon the energy on stage, Frazier used hard beam edges to augment tense atmospheres, while relying on soft pools of light to brighten gentler moments between actors. She also called on the intensity of the lighting fixtures to amp up emotions with bursts of light following near blackouts. In so doing she created a visual momentum that reflected the determination of the characters. Her full-stage illumination also added an emotional punch for more triumphant moments.
The New York setting played an important role in establishing the atmosphere for this musical. Scenic designer Zach Calloway’s impactful stage design featured four units of rolling scaffolding, rolling desks and tables, newsprint legs, and a newsprint backdrop. Working closely with Calloway, Frazier’s reinforced the urban landscape concept of the stage, which featured exposed trussing and fixtures.
The State Theatre itself provided an ideal venue for the production of Newsies. “This is an older space with charm and warmth,” said Frazier. “It was a pleasure to work here, especially with executive director Erica Miller and technical director Andy MacDonald. Another really good thing about this production was that Vincent Lighting Systems provided motors and truss to rig to the grid for optimal hanging positions, which freed up my time to build the color for this show. John Wagner (Director), Toby Maykuth (Producer), and Kristen Tunney (Stage Manager) were great helps – and none of this would have been possible without Noland Jenkins.”
Working with the rest of the creative team and drawing on the charm of her venue, Frazier helped bring out the best in all of the play’s characters, even one that was not listed on the playbill – the streets of old New York.
Photo Credit: K.G. Tunney
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CHAUVET Professional offers innovative professional lighting fixtures for the production and touring market as well as permanent installation in theaters, hospitality venues, cruise ships, clubs, television and architainment applications. For more information, please visit www.chauvetprofessional.com