LD Jason Kantrowitz Lights The Scarlet Pimpernel for MCP

by Stage Directions
The Scarlett Pimpernel with a lighting design from Jason Kantrowitz. Synthia F. Steiman sfs-photography.com
The Scarlett Pimpernel with a lighting design from Jason Kantrowitz. Synthia F. Steiman sfs-photography.com

On February 18, Manhattan Concert Productions presented a gala concert production of Frank Wildhorn and Nan Knighton's musical comedy The Scarlet Pimpernel at Lincoln Center's David Geffen Hall directed by Gabriel Barre. The performance featured over 200 choral singers from high schools across the nation for a lifetime opportunity to perform together with celebrated Broadway stars and musicians. Renowned Lighting Designer Jason Kantrowitz from Luminous Ventures Ltd selected 4Wall Entertainment as the lighting supplier for this one-night-only event.

Planning for The Scarlet Pimpernel started at the end of November. Writers Nan Knighton and Frank Wildhorn penned a fresh revision of the musical specifically for this engagement. Upon meeting with director Barre, LD Kantrowitz determined the direction of the lighting design. "Our goal was to grandly showcase the swashbuckling musical numbers and comedic script presented by our cast of Broadway royalty in Lincoln Center's lavish concert setting," said Kantrowitz.

The Scarlett Pimpernel with a lighting design by Jason Kantrowitz. Synthia F. Steiman sfs-photography.comThe lighting team's most significant challenges were time and budget. The production loaded in at 6 am and performed at 8 pm the same day. Prior to load-in, Kantrowitz and Associate LD/Programmer Jackson Miller analyzed the physical setup, estimating time for every task the David Geffen Hall crew had to achieve the morning of the event. "We developed a light plot that was feasible to hang and focus within the time constraints to be ready for rehearsal by 1 pm," explained the LD. "Close collaboration with Juniper Street Productions managers Joe DeLuise and Chris Batstone helped streamline our efforts."

In place of scenic changes on the concert hall stage, the many transitions back and forth between London and Paris during the French Revolution were telegraphed by use of lighting to emphasize the French and British flags. That, along with a 12-foot high guillotine located at the center of the chorus area, comprised the setting for the concert. Using the multi-tiered 206-member chorus as a backdrop, the lighting bathed them in soft color palettes of pink, blue and gold for England versus lavenders and reds for France. At times the large chorus transformed into the bold colors of flags as well.

The Scarlett Pimpernel with a lighting design by Jason Kantrowitz. Synthia F. Steiman sfs-photography.com"Since the onstage setup would be packed with orchestra chairs, music stands, choral risers on stage lifts and five performance platforms, we decided not to hang any conventional light fixtures over the stage," explained Kantrowitz. "We relied solely on moving lights which eliminated focus time with ladders and lifts."

Working closely with Al Ridella at 4Wall, they determined the Vari-Lite VL3500Q would be the workhorse of the show. "These fixtures offered me a multitude of lighting patterns, colors and beam control for systems of backlight, sidelight, and environmental lighting of the flags and surrounding walls," said the LD. "Visual special effects were important to the director and these fixtures were up to the task and executed the looks we had visualized."

Assisting visually with the epic nature of the performance, Kantrowitz designed a versatile, powerful light curtain that could be used for many different looks utilizing a lineup of Ayrton MagicBlades. "Among the many signature looks, we were able to ominously silhouette the terrifying guillotine in a bold blade of red light, and we created a rolling wave of rainbow-colored light to emphasize the fun foppish nature of the Pimpernel's band of men during “The Creation of Man”," explained Kantrowitz. "The MagicBlades offered infinite colors and both pan and tilt in a tightly focused curtain of light."

4Wall also provided an ETC EOS TI console and shop space to pre-program fixtures allowing Kantrowitz and Miller to create the 230 light cues. "The pre-light day at 4Wall was invaluable to us achieving our director's lighting goals," said the LD. "George and Eric, who work in 4Wall's electronics department, helped us pre-load gobos and rigorously tested our Vari-Lite fixtures."

On such a condensed schedule, a collective effort of experienced individuals and support from the 4Wall team created a beautifully produced concert that left audiences and the cast of nearly 250 buzzing with excitement. "Production Electrician Tom Blancato handled all the pre-production details and equipment pull from 4Wall. We tapped veteran designer Ed McCarthy to coordinate front of house conventional lighting focus, and in advance of show day, we gave light cue locations to Production Stage Manager Chris Zaccardi, all of which helped make efficient use of our limited technical time," explained Kantrowitz.

He continued, "Assistant Lighting Designer Jacob Zedek took on the task of choreographing and calling the hundreds of intricate followspot cues. When it came to creating this spectacle, I couldn't have asked for a better support team of colleagues and lighting supplier."

Director Barre added, "Working with Jason and his entire crew is a joy and a pleasure. He always has so many great ideas and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had many fruitful collaborations with him. This has led, not only to a level of trust and confidence that I know Jason, Jackson and their great team will get the job done, but also to a wonderful shorthand that we enjoy as we keep looking to mine details from the story and add layers to each scene, even for a show that all happens in one day."

Photos: Synthia F. Steiman, sfs-photography.com 

Further information from 4Wall Entertainment: www.4wall.com 

The Scarlett Pimpernel with a lighting design by Jason Kantrowitz. Synthia F. Steiman sfs-photography.com

The Scarlett Pimpernel with a lighting design by Jason Kantrowitz. Synthia F. Steiman sfs-photography.com