Meredith Willson’s The Music Man Revives Broadway Classic With Martin Professional

NEW YORK—To ensure a visually stunning stage lighting design with true-to-life color, The Music Man on Broadway recently worked with PRG and Martin Professional to deploy an array of Martin lighting solutions, including MAC Viper, MAC Encore Performance and the brand new MAC Ultra Performance and Ultra Wash fixtures.

Written by Meredith Willson and originally staged in 1957, The Music Man is a timeless Broadway classic that’s won numerous Tony awards and has been staged by countless theater companies—professional and amateur alike—in the past 75 years. In February 2022, a new production of The Music Man starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster opened at the Winter Garden Theatre. In order to ensure immersive visual experiences for theater-goers, director Jerry Zaks worked with renowned scenic and costume designer Santo Loquasto and award-winning lighting designer Brian MacDevitt to strike a balance that simultaneously felt modern while retaining the old-fashioned quality of the original production.

The Music Man

To accomplish the production’s goals, 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 color changes. 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, color temperature, rich feature set 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.”

MacDevitt’s lighting team deployed a full array of Martin fixtures to fill various roles in the lighting design. The team utilized Martin MAC Ultra Performance fixtures hung from balcony rails to illuminate Santo Loquasto’s scenery. The MAC Ultra Performance’s unmatched brightness and color 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.

The Music Man

“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.”   

The Music Man

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 comfort, 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—no doubt about it. 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.”

The Music Man