When leading Broadway theatre lighting designer and Tony Award winner, Donald Holder, was invited to design the lighting for the new production of Fiddler on the Roof at New York’s Broadway Theatre, he turned to GLP’s new multi-faceted X4 Bar 20s to meet a number of different challenges.
Holder had been approached by the show’s director Bartlett Sher, with whom he has a long-standing relationship, to be part of the revival of this hit musical. “It was a huge deal for me,” he said. “I saw the original Broadway production as a child and still remember how deeply affected I was by the experience.”
The Broadway is one of the largest proscenium theatres in New York, and this production used almost every square inch of it. Sher wanted to create a production that was “raw, rough-hewn, and poetic” accord to Don Holder. “There’s a sense of vastness and a spare, unadorned beauty to the world of Anatevka [where it is set] that I tried to evoke with the light.
“We experience every time of day, and move from spring to summer, fall and winter during the course of the evening. The piece is framed as a story that comes to life in the mind of Tevye [the central character] — and all of these considerations were influential in the way the light was created.
“Even though my objective was to create a painterly and at times bleak and (as requested by Bart) a tungsten-lit environment, the technical challenges involved in mounting the production led me to employing some pretty sophisticated new technology, including the GLP X4 Bar 20s,” he explains.
A few weeks before production began, the LD visited the LDI Show in Las Vegas, “learning as much as I could about the many new products that had been introduced.
“My last visit of the day was to the GLP booth, where I saw a live demo of many of their products, including the X4 batten. I was incredibly impressed with this fixture.”
The X4 Bar 20s appear in the opening seconds of the show, as the full cast (of around 40) appear in the mist while ascending a 45 ft. wide staircase leading from the trap room, 8ft below.
“This dramatic moment cried out for an epic curtain of backlight coming from underneath and behind the cast, but I only had a 10in deep x 9in wide lighting trough to fit a
potential new lighting idea,” he said. “The X4 Bar 20s immediately came to mind as offering a unique solution to this challenge.” And so working with GLP Inc president, Mark Ravenhill, he requisitioned eight of the fixtures.
At the trade fair Don Holder had also noted other key attributes: “I was impressed with the extremely low profile, the amazing variable zoom and a very high lumen output.
“The dimming, intensity, optics and color-mixing of the X4 Bars were all in line with what we needed for this moment. I cannot think of another fixture that could have filled this role when I considered the desired lighting effect required versus the actual space we had available.”
Although his main objective had been to solve the opening moment of the show, such was the versatility of the X4 Bar 20 that he knew it would be useful in backlighting drops and introducing intense color and movement in the fog effects planned for Tevye’s Dream.”
The key factor was the combination of high quality optics, zoom range and RGBW pallet. Explaining this, he said, “We start the sequence by backlighting a drop directly upstage of the large [hidden] staircase with a very rich blue to create a ghostly glow. With the entrance of Frumah Sarah’s ghost, the X4 Bar 20s tilt downstage into position, zoom to a wide beam, and change color to a deep amber to dramatically uplight the fog rising up from the basement. We then introduced movement effects to subtly evoke the idea of fire.”
As for the singing of Sunrise, Sunset a translucent painted sky drop flies in downstage of the submerged lighting trough — and once again the location of the lighting was ideal for backlighting this drop, enabling a rich layer of oranges and reds to boost the background during the wedding scene, where Sunrise, Sunset is performed. “The X4 Bar 20s add immeasurably to the look of this scene” the designer confirms.
LED sources are playing an increasingly prominent role in theatrical lighting. “They have become my first choice when lighting backcloths, cycloramas, and other vertical surfaces,” states Don Holder.
“Consequently, I am very much looking forward to finding another opportunity to use the X4 Bar 20 and other GLP products,” he concludes. “After seeing their extraordinary contribution to the look of Fiddler, I am relishing the opportunity to use them again.”