Helena Kuukka designed the lighting for the Fort Lauderdale Christmas Pageant, staged in the 2,500-capacity First Baptist Church. The annual production celebrated its 22nd year by running for two weeks and playing to more than 50,000 people. It was also broadcast on national TV and to several foreign countries and is produced into a DVD each year.
Automated lighting was programmed and run on an MA Lighting grandMA console, including 14 Robe Colorspot 1200 ATs, 77 Martin MAC fixtures — a mix of 500s, 250s, 300s, 600s, 2000 Profiles, and 2000 Wash units — and eight Vari-lite VL3500s. Additional lighting included 140 ETC Source Fours, six Martin Atomic Strobes, four Arri 5kW Fresnels, 65 PAR 64s, three Wildfire 400 Spots, three Altman MR-16 6'6" Zips, and four Lycian 1271 Long Throw followspots. Effects were provided via two Reel EFX DF-50 hazers and three Little Blizzard Snow Machines®. Additional control was provided via an ETC Insight 2x. Locally based Paradigm Productions supplied lighting equipment and programming services and the show electricians and installation crew came from Majestic Productions.
Kuukka had a 70'-wide stage and a cast of about 300 to cover. “One of the scenic elements we had was a white Austrian curtain, about 80' in width, which needed plenty of rich color and texturing,” she explains.
The show is specifically challenging for lighting because it's essentially two shows in one. The first act is a huge Christmas Revue, including dance numbers, a 200-strong choir concert, and a collection of production numbers. Act 2 is a biblical play with music — treated more like an opera in terms of lighting — with very little movement and effects. The lighting rig needed to be versatile enough to cover both shows and to provide anything from rock and roll looks to subtle theatrical scenes. The added production element of recording for TV added yet another challenge, and the show was reprogrammed for the cameras for the two nights of live recording.
With approximately 500 cues, the show took two weeks to program, for which Kuukka worked closely with Mike Smrcka of Paradigm. The production electrician was BJ Schnettler, and the production manager was Ryan Bates, both from Majestic Productions.