LD Hugh Vanstone Is Back on Broadway with Blast

Bright, colorful lighting bursting with bold movement characterizes Blast as designed by London-based LD Hugh Vanstone. A high-energy musical revue, Blast has a hip-hop cast of young dancers and musicians performing everything from precision marching to baton- and sword-twirling. Blast was seen at the Broadway Theatre in New York City following a US tour, with the lighting evolving along the way, allowing Vanstone to have fun with his use of color and automated luminaires, while carefully controlling the light in terms of safety for the performers.

Blast is like a football halftime show onstage,” says Vanstone, who used a progression of color in the lighting. “This is the only show I've ever done with no narrative. There is no story to tell, you just react to the movement and the music; consequently, it's one of the flashiest bits of lighting I've ever done. There are no rules. You can go wherever you want.”

That said, Vanstone strove to be supportive of the choreography and music, using a big moving-light rig. This includes 32 High End Systems Studio Spots and 28 Studio Colors that are hung overhead and used for color. “I go through pretty much the whole rainbow.”

There are also 18 DHA Digital Light Curtains placed in three rows of six in the overhead bays. At one point, these fly in to create a bright wall of light with color-changing capability. The moving-light rig is controlled by a Wholehog® II console. The lighting equipment was supplied by Four Star Lighting, including a conventional package of over 100 ETC Source Fours, 14 Altman UV-703 400W fresnels, and an ETC Obsession console. Hung on side towers in the wings, the Source Fours (and PAR cans) provide crosslight and washes.

The set for Blast (by Mark Thompson) is a series of boxes or cubes that creates the back wall. These are large enough for several musicians and instruments and are lit from the interior with 20 birdies, with colors to match the bright colors of the cubes themselves. There are also five portals or large light boxes that frame the set, and each is lit with a large number of 7W lamps (like Christmas tree lights) in red, green, and white. “There are thousands of them in each portal,” points out Vanstone, who notes that in the London production the portals were lit with neon. “This was not good for the tour in the States, so the scene shop came up with various alternatives. LEDs might have been a better option but we didn't have enough lead time to work it out.”

Vanstone employed haze in Blast, relying on MDG Atmosphere machines to create the proper effects. “They work pretty much nonstop,” he says. The haze is used “for effect, in order to see the beams of light. There are four machines pumping away.”

This reinforces Vanstone's anything-goes, self-conscious illumination for Blast. “You see the moving lights and there are things that happen for the lighting's sake alone, which is something I rarely do.” The lighting follows the regimented, drilled patterns of music and movement, using a variety of gobos and templates on the floor.

“There's a division of opinion as to whether it's better to see the floor or not,” Vanstone offers. What one doesn't see when sitting close is the grid pattern emphasizing the block patterns on the floor. Strips of light isolate squares in the grid. One of the challenges Vanstone encountered in designing this show is that it is very loud. “I was lucky if the board operator could hear me,” he says.

Two of Vanstone's favorite moments in Blast are the “Medea” percussion number that is very loud and fast, with patterns on the floor to help define corridors of light, and “Techno,” where blacklight and glow sticks are used for effect. Once again there are patterns on the floor and a lot of fast chase sequences. “This is a very busy show, and each number has a lot of cues. It is very hard for the stage manager to call,” says Vanstone.

“The performers also throw a lot of things into the air, including batons, swords, and rifles, that are potentially lethal,” he continues. “I tailored the lighting so they can see what they are throwing, and devised a whole system of high crosslight above head height to help them catch things and see them in the air.” Seems like Vanstone had quite a “blast” with this one.

Contact the author at elgreaux@intertec.com.


Selected Lighting Equipment

20 ETC Source Fours 10°
50 ETC Source Fours 19°
54 ETC Source Fours 26°
20 ETC Source Fours 36°
46 1kW NSP PAR-64s
30 1kW MFL PAR-64s
2 2kW fresnels
6 300W Mini-10s with barndoors
6 500W Mini-10s with barndoors
14 Altman UV-703 400W fresnels
22 1kW one-circuit single-cell striplights
28 High End Systems Studio Colors 17°
32 High End Systems Studio Spots 18°
20 DHA VNSP Digital Light Curtains
2 Flying Pig Systems Wholehog II consoles
1 remote focus unit for Wholehog
1 ETC Obsession console
1 remote focus unit for Obsession
1 ETC Sensor dimmer rack
1 Lycian 2kW followspot
1 Lycian 1.5kW followspot
12 Wybron Coloram scrollers for PAR-64s
30 Wybron Coloram scrollers for Source Fours
24 City Theatrical top hats for Source Fours
10 gobo rotators
2 MDG Atmosphere haze machines
2 High End Systems F100 smoke machines
2 Bowen jet stream fans
Rosco and Lee Filters color media

Read about another of Vanstone's recent Broadway productions, Follies, on the web at www.lightingdimensions.com.