Promises, Promises Set and Lighting Design at Stages St. Louis

Promises, Promises required its design team of scenic designer Mark Halpin and lighting designer Matthew McCarthy to capture the vibrant energy and graphic punch of 1960s Madison Avenue and multiple surrounding locales. Scenes shift cinematically in time to Burt Bacharach’s pulsating score, integrating the set, lighting, and music into a cohesive stylistic whole is paramount.

Stages St. Louis’s venue provides its own set of challenges. Minimal wing space and limited flies necessitate clever solutions and careful choices to achieve an exciting effect for a large multi-set musical.

Halpin and McCarthy imagined the space as a box which would be entirely illuminable, able to transform instantaneously. This let them create bold looks for full-stage numbers and augment minimal set pieces with an array of colors and patterns for the book scenes. This evolved into a series of grids with an abstract breakup of panels in which light-boxes alternated with metallic framing and wood veneer, a composition in keeping with the slick corporate look of the ‘60s. Side walls tapered upstage in forced perspective. This created a deeper and sleeker look, additionally creating extra offstage space, allowing vertical units to either play flush with the walls or extend onstage for various scenes. Overhead gridwork continuing the same perspective housed horizontal light-boxes serving as ceiling panels. An in-one wall-drop also comprised of light-boxes penetrated the ceiling grid mid-stage to facilitate upstage scene changes.

The light-boxes needed to be very thin and lightweight. They were controlled in eight distinctive groups, each separated into four sub-groups. Careful attention to the layout prevented having two boxes on the same circuit too close to each other. To give the boxes maximum flexibility as economically as possible, a strip of LED tape light was installed along one vertical edge of each box. Each box was less than 2” deep, framed in box steel with an opaque white backing. The front surface was stretched white spandex. The front was then covered with a layer of window screen which cut down on unwanted reflections and made the boxes appear to be a metallic silver when not lit.

The LED tape had the advantage of producing very little heat, had extremely even distribution over its length, was very bright, and could change instantly in an infinite range of colors. The tape was cut to the exact length needed for each box and controlled via DMX. The ceiling boxes were illuminated from within black duvetyn cones by Philips Color Kinetics ColorBlast and ColorBurst fixtures. The rest of the rig included eight Wybron CXI color mixing scrollers, 20 Colorams, four Goborams, and two Rosco I-Cue moving mirror units for specials. The Goborams were especially useful for their ability to change and index gobos, or spin continuously.

The end result was an extremely dynamic, fluid set in which color morphed slowly like a lava lamp or flashed in synchronization with the music. The ability to change the entire stage picture on an instant bump was used to great effect. The design was extremely supportive of the production and served the client’s needs well.

Creative Team
Mark Halpin, Scenic Designer
Matthew McCarthy, Lighting Designer

177m LED Tape Light; RGB Tri-color, DMX control
12 Philips Color Kinetics ColorBlast
8 Philips Color Kinetics ColorBurst
2 Rosco I-Cue Intelligent Mirror
4Wybron Goboram Changer/Rotator
8 Wybron CXI Scroller
20 Wybron ColoRam Scroller
2 Great Performance Products FS400 Followspot
4 ETC Source Four 10°
22 ETC Source Four 19°
26 ETC Source Four 26°
20 ETC Source Four 36°
16 ETC Source Four 50°
2 ETC Source Four 90°
26 ETC Source Four PAR WFL

Read more on:

Suggested Articles:

World's Famous Building Corporation reimagines world’s narrowest commercial building with animated storytelling through light and media.

On a canvas stretching a full city-block wide and nearly 100’ tall, the design teams of American Christmas and Chris Werner Design transformed the iconic…

Held from 15-27 September 2015 at Frankfurt am Main, Germany, the IAA International Motor Show is one of the biggest auto shows in the world, and is known for…