LD Damien Cooper has been involved in an eclectic mix of projects lately, from collaborating on the lighting for the new Fox Studios amusement park in Sydney to lighting a successful national tour of Frank, an Australian show based on the life and music of Frank Sinatra. The idea for the musical came from Aussie actor Tom Burlinson, who is perhaps more widely known as the rugged "Man from Snowy River" from the movie of the same name. In 1991 Burlinson, who has had no professional training as a singer, had his first singing engagement as the voice of young Sinatra in the award-winning TV miniseries Sinatra. The inspiration to do a full-length show based on the music came later, after Burlinson had starred in a series of open-air concerts in Sydney featuring Sinatra's music.
Frank was originally created to do six shows in Sydney, but it proved so popular a national tour was arranged. The production charts Sinatra's musical evolution, and the music was an obvious starting point for LD Cooper to draw his inspiration. "We wanted to recreate the feel of a recording studio from Sinatra's era, so the lighting is quite straightforward without too many effects, though it hots up a little in the second part when Tom performs some of the showstoppers like 'My Way' and 'New York, New York'." At the tender age of 26, Cooper was not overly familiar with Sinatra's music, so he immersed himself in videos of Sinatra's concerts and his movies to get a feel for the man and the era.
He came up with the concept of creating a sepia look for the first half mixed in with open white (no color) and blue. "I was interested in achieving a slightly undersaturated, intimate feel in keeping with the era, and I decided not to utilize any moving lights, since the technology wasn't around in Sinatra's heyday and I wanted to be as authentic as possible." For the second half Cooper chose a more colorful palette and used a few effects such as footlights to create some dramatic looks.
The stage setting was simple, with a 16-piece band seated stage left in a big-band style layout and a grand piano and drum kit on stage right. Cooper lit the band as though they were the set and sculpted them with a breakup gobo wash from behind and above them and with blue washes from above. He had ellipsoidals focused on the soloists in the band but otherwise the attention was on Burlinson (pictured), who remained fairly static at a microphone downstage center. Cooper used two front-of-house followspots on Burlinson for most of the show and also used sidelight to create some texture and counterbalance the flattening effect of the followspots.
Cooper didn't tour any equipment other than bud lights, which he hung around the proscenium arch and used in the second half. "I just used whatever equipment each venue had in-house and most of the time it worked, though occasionally I had a few challenges, particularly with long throw distances in some venues which made it difficult to retain the intimate feel I was after." Frank has concluded its run, but may be revived for Sinatraphiles at a later date.