LDI Speaker Spotlight: Rick Fisher

Tony Award-winning LD Rick Fisher will be taking a few days off from the previews of Billy Elliot The Musical on Broadway to attend LDI2008 and present a case study about his lighting for this wonderful musical that is already a smash hit in London UK (where it opened in 2005) and Sydney, Australia. His session, Billy Elliot: A Case Study will take place on Saturday, October 25, from 4:00-5:30pm, and be moderated by Dan Bonitsky of Source Ventures LLC.

Fisher will also be honored at the LDI Awards Ceremony on Saturday, October 25 as an Outstanding Designer of The Year, along with Jeremy Railton and Bryan Hartley. Fisher's award has been sponsored by Strand Lighting, A Philips Group Brand.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I stopped by the Imperial Theatre to see Rick Fisher and his lighting crew, which includes UK associate LD and US programmer Victoria “Vic” Smerdon (she was also recently named deputy head of lighting at London’s English National Opera), US associate Dan Walker, assistant Kris Kloss, and production electricians Jimmy Maloney and Kevin Barry.

For the New York show, Fisher has added two automated Clay Paky fixtures to replace Pirouettes, which were in the former rigs. “There is still a bar of Pirouettes which come in as a scenic element,” he notes, pointing out that the remainder of the automated rig is concealed, as not to be anachronistic. There is also some projection gear including two Panasonic PTD5700U 6000-lumen projectors perched on the balcony rail and used with QLab software on an Apple/Mac computer system and Rosco’s Keystroke interface. The entire show is run on a Strand 500 series console, with eight universes of DMX.

“The challenge in Billy Elliot is in doing a book musical,” says Fisher. “Also it’s not glitzy, it’s more gritty, and in some ways quite old-fashioned. There is a real story and you have to be connected emotionally to the story and the characters.” To help connect the audience to the story, Fisher’s rig is primarily moving lights—only six Pacific Selecons in the conventional department, and they were added in Australia. “There are more moving lights overhead than I have had in any other show,” he adds. All of the moving lights involved—a wide mix of manufacturers—were selected as the quietest ones on the market. “It’s a book musical so you want to reduce the amount of ambient noise in the theatre so its sounds as natural as possible. And you have kids talking on stage.

Originally from Philadelphia, Rick has been based in Britain for 30 years. He received the 2008 Helpmann Award for the Australian production of Billy Elliot. Broadway: Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake,Via Dolorosa, Some Americans Abroad, An Inspector Calls (Tony, Drama Desk awards), Serious Money. Off-Broadway: Far Away (New York Theatre Workshop), Three Birds Alighting on a Field (MTC). Opera work includes seven seasons at Santa Fe Opera and productions at Covent Garden, English National Opera, Opera North, Spoleto Festival, Houston, New York City Opera, Venice, Bolshevik. Other awards include two Olivier Awards for Best Lighting.

For more information on sessions, exhibitors, and events at LDI, visit http://www.ldishow.com.