Avolites’ new Diamond 4 Elite console makes its UK debut on Da Boyz, a new energy-fuelled rap musical that’s taking audiences by storm at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. Da Boyz is a new urban performance musical based on Rodgers and Hart’s The Boys from Syracuse, adapted by DJ Excalibah, MC Skolla (from Hip-Hop Duo Dirty Diggers), and Ultz, who also directs. For the first time in musical theatre history, the rights were gained to update a musical still held in copyright. Da Boyz marks the end of the celebrations of Richard Rodgers’ centenary year, bringing the magic of his music to a young audience through hip-hop, R&B, and garage remixes. Theatre Royal Stratford East is committed to the revitalization of musical theatre and bringing it into the sphere of current popular culture, and Da Boyz is the first of a series of projects bringing urban music to Theatre Royal’s stage.

Da Boyz has a raw, minimalist set, and director Ultz wanted it to look and feel like a hip hop concert. Consequently, lighting is vital to setting the mood, tone, and ambience of each scene. Lighting designer Dan Cook approached the show with a dual vision, lighting it both as a club night and a theatre show. He combined the two very different operational modes of club freestyling with a strict theatrical cue structure. He was also aware that the theatre-trained operators would need a familiar setup.

Cook specified the D4 Elite soon after he was approached to light the show. He had been involved in the D4 Elite’s final software beta-testing and relished the opportunity to utilize the full power and flexibility of the latest Avolites creation. The designer used Martin Professional MAC 250+s and MAC 300s supplied by Entec for the primary effects lighting, plus house conventionals including ETC Source Fours, fresnels, and cyclights, all hung on the house bars and run off the D4 Elite.

Before the start of Da Boyz, Avolites made a console available to Cook, enabling him to set up, visualize, and programme his lighting ideas for the show without even being in the theatre. The LD made full use of new functions like the Cue List, which allows shapes from the Avolites Shape Generator to be included into cues and chases. Other D4 Elite features are Fixture % Overlap, allowing the easy creation of beam or color ripple effects using single cues, by staggering the start of each fixture's fade, and Chase Step % Overlap, enabling different chase steps to run into each other for fluid, trippy, liquid effects.

Cook maintains that for all the new console’s functionality and aesthetics, it still feels and behaves very much like an Avo desk. Avolites was very aware during the extensive R&D period that some fundamental, classic Avo elements should be maintained. The tactility, hands-on feel, and playback accessibility of the new consoles was paramount.

Everything from cues, chases, and scenes to the dimmers can be named on the D4 Elite. Cook took full advantage of this, and used dual LCD monitor displays to view all fixtures and dimmers all the time. A new, improved Off function means the operator can hit Chase, Memory, or Cue and easily switch off whatever they want--ideal for fast modifying on the fly. The desk also has an in-built Avolites Visualiser system, which can be run simultaneously to the console. Being Windows XP-based, software or personality upgrades are easily installed either via floppy disk, CD-R or the Internet.

Cook’s operating crew at Stratford East loves the console for its explicit labeling facilities, allowing cue numbers plus other information to be added into a cue display for easy recognition. The cue system also allows cues to be easily cut, pasted, and swapped around to anywhere else on the console that’s convenient for the show’s operation. Cues can be run on the preset fader banks if desired. The day-to-day lighting operation is being looked after by various Stratford East operators under chief lighting director Stuart Saunders.

Photos © Louise Stickland