Veteran designer Kevin Adams has four Tony Awards for his work on Broadway, three of them for musicals. His latest Broadway production, Funny Girl, opened on Broadway in April 2022 with the iconic score by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill, and a revised book by Harvey Fierstein. In September 2022, Lea Michele replaced Beanie Feldstein in the lead role of Fanny Brice. In September 2023, the production left Broadway for a North American tour.
Adams shares his plots for both the Broadway production and the tour with Live Design, and talks about his approach to the design, choice of equipment, and updating the show around the performers.
Working with the equipment already in the rental shop, Adams says, "It’s like going to the pantry and making a meal with what you find." His priority for the plot was to make it flexible, "There were around 24 scenes including lots of scenery and songs of all sizes and tempos to light. Lots of one- and two-person ballads, up tempo and comedy numbers with two or three performers, a solo tap number, and lots of up tempo full-company numbers. I needed a plot that could make layers of colorful romance around two performers, as well as the brightness to light 20 faces and moving bodies well.
Verticals and Background Light
I love vertical strips as low side light and as vertical drop/background light. Thirty years ago this idea would have been R40 strips, then a few years later 6 foot mini strips, then during the last 15 years they were LED, first three-color then later five-color. And now they are focusing super bright LED strips with lots of colors. Amazing! What next?
Most of my plots are Lekos out front and ETC Pars or wash units onstage. I don’t think we do that in Funny Girl too much, but most of the shows you’ve seen of mine on Broadway are like that. I call it American out front and German on stage. Controlled out front, lose and washy on stage. We have three followspots which was really helpful for this show. This is a post-scroller plot, this show and the Neil Diamond musical (A Beautiful Noise) don’t use them and I didn’t use them on Sponge Bob a few years ago but I went back to them for The Cher Show. I’ve gotten used to it but it was a bit of a shock at first.
Smart Tim Reed was my associate on this show and drew this plot. He figured out all the short little electrics that are squeezed into the tight spaces around the central cylinder area. The mezzanine rail is a great flat position for decorative lighting systems and we have several LED movers at the end of the rail. I started using low flat LED movers in this position a few years ago with Sponge Bob and they are super useful. If they are on the rail like these are they mostly light scenery and drops. If I can get them further away from the center line in front of house boxes I can use them on figures to brighten up ensemble dance pieces. And brighten up they do!
When Lea Michelle joined the show we added theatrical haze and I went in and reworked the ends of songs, especially the numerous solo songs she has. She really got the star lighting. We didn’t have haze when we opened the show a few months before, and the show looked pretty without it, really clean. There was a lot more painting on surfaces around the performers, but it was hard to build and button numbers without haze and I really relied on the lightbulbs on the set to do a lot of this work. When we put Lea in I took a lot of the bulb work out as it was way too busy. I went back again a few months into her year long run and quietly took out even more. It was driving me crazy. It’s rare to go in alone and work on little projects after a show opens but the crew was great and extremely accommodating and it only took a few minutes to do. I went in recently and lightened up an overly saturated dance break in A Beautiful Noise that was driving me a little crazy the more I looked at it.