Since its March 1984 opening, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Starlight Express has become one of the West End’s longest-running tourist attractions, along with Cats and Phantom of the Opera. Apparently, however, even a mega-success needs an upgrade from time to time, so LD David Hersey and the show’s original production electrician, Howard Eaton, recently updated the show’s lighting rig, adding some of the latest in automated equipment.
For this upgrade—not the show’s first—Hersey and Eaton swapped out the production’s High End Systems Intellabeams for 24 Martin Professional Mac 500 profile spot luminaires and three of Martin’s newest product, the Mac 2000 profile unit. In addition, they added two DHA (Hersey’s own company) Pitching Digital Light Curtains, which allow the designer to light the setting’s spectacular bridge unit, designed by John Napier, in a new way.
The light rig was redone in a ten-day period, when the production closed temporarily to allow the Apollo Victoria Theatre to get new carpeting and seats. Eaton and his team also upgraded the production’s dimmers and lighting control system; the rig is now controlled by the Rosco-ET Horizon. Horizon programmer was handled by Robert Bell, creator of the WYSIWIG lighting visualization software and now Horizon’s product manager. He worked with Hersey and Eaton to relight the show, using the new equipment, is only three days.
Eaton, of course, has come a long way since his early Starlight Express days. Like Hersey, he now has his own company Howard Eaton Lighting Ltd. (also known as HELL), which provides various kinds of special effects. Meanwhile, Starlight Express celebrated its 7,000th performance in January.