Zorba! tells the story of a shy American intellectual who befriends an irrepressible jack-of-all-trades (photo: Joan Marcus)
USA - The New York City Center has given life to numerous Broadway productions and its Tony-honoured Encores! musical theatre series has received the highest accolades possible. Dedicated to making the best in theatre accessible to all audiences, the City Center recently completed their production of Zorba! telling the story of a shy American intellectual who befriends an irrepressible jack-of-all-trades. As lighting designer Ken Billington was challenged to transform the historic stage into an island off the coast of Greece, he found his ideal fixture to make this happen in the VL4000 Spot luminaire from Philips Vari-Lite.

"I have done about 30 different productions with the City Center Encores! with many of the most successful productions moving to Broadway," began Billington. "For this production set in Greece, we wanted the lighting design to be as real as possible so we used a lot of unsaturated colour palettes, except when we went into the fantasy sequences when we would interject more colour saturation. Going into the process, I had planned to use VL3000 Spot luminaires, but when I heard the VL4000 Spots were available, I was very excited because this is the perfect venue to try new lights on a Broadway-scale production."

Billington continued, "With every Encore! series production there is usually a 30-piece orchestra on stage playing the original orchestrations. Also the set design of Zorba! had a large platform on stage as well, so this production definitely had a few design challenges. We do tech rehearsal in one, nine-hour day, so you have to go into it knowing exactly what your lights can do, and since I have to focus the conventional lights before the set is built onstage, moving lights are an absolute necessity. With the VL4000 Spot my thought was that if it's a Vari-Lite it's going to work and I wasn't worried at all about the performance of the lights on the show."

Hung overhead on the first and second electric, the VL4000 Spot luminaires were trimmed at 28ft. As Billington got to work with his programmer lighting the show, he had a specific purpose for the high-powered luminaires from Philips Vari-lite and they did not disappoint.

"In the show, the VL4000 Spots handled my specials with gobos and specific colour washes," added Billington. "What truly made them fabulous in my opinion was that their brightness really made the gobo projections punch through the 200 conventional fixtures that were lighting the performance area."

(Jim Evans)

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