Sven Ortel Creates Video For Once Upon A One More Time, Britney's Hits On Broadway

Once Upon a One More Time - A New Musical takes songs performed by Britney Spears and some well-known fairytales, then adapts them into a musical journey, written by Jon Hartmere.

“It tells a new story about female empowerment,” video and projection designer Sven Ortel explains. “Once Upon a One More Time takes the songs associated with Britney Spears and the stories of the Grimm brothers, then twists them to tell a contemporary tale. At some point Cinderella feels something is not quite right and she starts asking questions. She comes across this fairy godmother who gifts her Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique.”

And so begins a feminist revolution inside the fairytale kingdom.

The production is directed and choreographed by Keone and Mari Madrid with scenery by Anna Fleischle, lighting by Kenneth Posner, sound by Andrew Keister, costume and hair by Loren Elstein, with wigs by Nikiya Mathis. David Leveaux serves as creative consultant.

Although the story is fantasy, there is history here, too. “The music and choreography lean into pop history and music video history, and everything has to transform to become a pop concert at times,” says Ortel. A large opaque Roe BP3 LED wall in the back serves for music video visuals and a glass wall in front becomes a screen for images and video that set the scenes and move the story.

“The set is essentially a box with some scenic elements extending the world that is onstage, especially when the action takes place outside.” A 3-D forest, for instance, can exist inside a box. The scenic pieces on stage and the imagery are lit the same way. There is a moment in the show where all the princesses are being banished. They have to be seen in a limbo state,” Ortel says, explaining that by creating 3-D CD scans of all the princesses, they could appear to be standing upstage. When they run back onto the stage, Ortel makes the images disappear making it seem that they have moved at magical speed onto the stage.

“We’re living in a world where the line between what is physically there, and what isn’t, gets increasingly blurred,” says Ortel. When professional carpenters and stagehands came to the show, they didn't know which scenery was real and which was projected.

Ortel has been testing ideas using AI and a playback system that allows him to preview his thoughts on stage, he can now show directors and other designers what he intends. “Instead of saying, ‘Here’s a sketch,' I can finish the rendering in twelve hours. Five  minutes later, it’s in the show.”

“I always try to investigate how contemporary technology makes this profession better,” Ortel says. “With both shows [Parade and Once Upon A One More Time] I found new ways to allow this area to be more nimble and it is very exciting.”

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