Washington, DC- 4Wall DC recently provided lighting for the entire run of Tony-winning musical ‘Hello, Dolly!’ at Ford’s Theatre. Directed by Eric Schaeffer, the production features lighting design by Colin K Bills.
Bills’ design took cues not only from the set design, but also from the historic venue itself.
The set, designed as an abstracted train station, featured a dominant arched window, reminiscent of Grand Central Station in NYC. Ford’s naturally raked stage (a common component of 19th century theatre architecture) served to make the floor itself an additional focal element of the lighting design.
“From my point of view, the window was a giant surface to take color and texture over the course of the show,” said Bills. “Like the window, the floor also became a predominant surface for texture and color: angular and ochre in the Feed Store, softly amorphous and lavender in the Hat Shop; different saturate colors and a soft mirror ball effect for the Harmonia Gardens.”
Changes to the classic production itself also presented a challenge for Bills to solve. While the opening number of ‘Hello, Dolly!’ is traditionally a large chorus number, for this incarnation the song was sung as a series of solos.
“The solos needed to be highlighted by a number of tight, soft specials. Because this musical takes places in the 1890s, I wanted those specials (while tightly focused) to have a softness and slightly sepia tone that portrayed that sense of a romantic, bygone era.”
All of these design choices drove the need for equipment that could give a broad sense of colors while also providing the ability to zoom in tight, or even wash the stage. Bills chose Martin MAC Auras and Vari*Lite VL3500 fixtures from 4Wall DC along with other conventional fixtures to accomplish his task.
“4Wall was great in providing those Auras,” said Bills. “I try to use LED fixtures whenever I can as the colors are pure and bright when I need them to be. The Auras were the workhorse for the show, really lifting the design, and they worked like a dream.”