Sweeney Todd at Austin Opera’s Long Center
USA - Austin Opera’s Long Centre presented a production of the classic Sweeney Todd this spring, with an uncompromising series of lighting states created by LD James Sale using Vari-Lite VL2600 Wash luminaires from Signify.
“I wanted to put Sweeney Todd in the audience’s faces, which to me meant he needed to be bright,” says Sale, who has designed the lighting for shows at the innovative Long Centre for more than a decade. “The VL2600s were very bright, which was a big plus. The colour rendition and continuity from fixture to fixture was terrific and they moved very smoothly.”
Sale responded to the play’s blood-soaked, dreary, 1785 London setting by unleashing sinister lighting states that cut through the darkness with searing, rich colours at high intensities. As the play progressed, the looks which Sale describes as “unworldly” started to manifest in the plot driven scenes until all became one, in a dramatic crescendo of colour. The VL2600 Wash fixtures were the only colour-changing lights in his plot, apart from the cyc lights, and Sale programmed them on ‘double duty’ as specials as well as colour washes.
“I rigged the VL2600s on either side of the stage, in the bottom of the box boom, and about three feet off the deck. They were used constantly,” says Sale. “There were several live moves, but they only happened when the set pieces were spinning, which worked really well. The show never stopped, with constant scene changes during action. The instant colour change and the smooth pan/tilt of the VL2600s told the story in time to the music. I discovered that the VL2600s can do all sorts of great things.”
The Long Centre purchased the VL2600 Wash luminaires two years ago, following discussions between the Centre and Tony Tucci, the Austin Ballet lighting designer. “The VL2600s upgraded the previous fixtures, giving the Long Center colour consistency, brightness, shutters, steady light, LED lamp stability, and a much quieter hall,” adds Sale.
The Long Center is known as ‘Austin’s creative home’ and is renowned for fostering technical and performance excellence. The production of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd ran for three nights. It was directed by Doug Scholz-Carlson with Ari Jaimesen serving as assistant lighting designer, Vince Herod as production manager and technical director.

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