Lighting designer Stephan Gotschel has been lighting The Beatles cover band, Rain, since October 2005. Live Design checks in with Gotschel on the tour and Broadway version, RAIN: A Tribute To The Beatles.

How does the lighting differ from the tour version to the Broadway version?

Both versions of the show have their challenges. The tour version needs to be flexible enough to fit into a variety of venues ranging from stages with a 30' depth to stages over 50' deep. The touring version of the design normally hangs on battens in theatres and on trusses in arenas. In theatres, the lighting design hangs on seven separate battens as well as some fixtures on the floor. By doing so, it creates a greater feeling of depth to the stage. At a given point in the show (during a video used to set the next scene), certain lights drop in while others wheel onstage to create even more dimension. This version needed to be able to fit on trusses as well. When hanging the show in arenas, we combine the seven lighting battens onto three trusses. Spacing is important here since the automated lights can't interfere with each other and still have to be able to hit their targets.

The Broadway version presented a different challenge. Given that it is not a part of the tour, it obviously doesn't need to be set up and torn down all the time. The challenge here was a much smaller space and larger scenic elements. The Brooks Atkinson Theatre is about 24' deep. Given the addition of more scenic elements, I needed to add more fixtures and fit them in a smaller space. After working with the scenic designers, we came up with a lighting/staging plot with literally inches to spare. Lights had to be programmed to point in certain positions during scene changes so that the various scenic elements wouldn't collide with them as they were brought in.

What are some of the specific changes for Broadway?

On Broadway, I needed to add four Philips Vari-Lite VL3500 Spots to the show to light the set pieces. With their great zoom capabilities, I had no problem lighting the various elements for the various scenes, framing them nicely with their shutters.

For the Shea Stadium segment, I worked with the scenic designers to add some "stadium lighting." I researched what types of lights would best mimic stadium lights while keeping it scaled down to a 35'x24' stage. I came up with some old chrome Par64 short-nosed fixtures. Each of the two "stadium lights" has 12 of them arranged in three rows of four.

Both versions of the show have a concert look to the lighting. There is no story. There is no plot. From a lighting standpoint, the show is simply a concert featuring Beatles music through the different eras. Many stage plays, dance productions, and musicals use a lot of front light and sidelight. Since this is a concert, I designed a concert lighting rig (see light plot).

Abe Jacob says the sound arcs in the show from a 70s sound to present. Did you try and do the same with the lighting... is there a period look at all?

Yes. Even though the design mainly consists of "automated" lights, I needed to keep the earlier scenes basic and relatively accurate to what the technology would have been in those days while giving me the ability to create more psychedelic looks later in the show. The first scene is all about the Ed Sullivan show. The live camera shots of the audience and the video footage playing on the side screens are all in black and white. Likewise, the lighting is all practically white light. I warmed up the white, creating more of a light sepia tone to give it more of an older feel and to mimic the incandescent lighting they used back then. Everything about this scene is clean... lights are static and simple... no haze or smoke... no effects... just basic 60's television style lighting. Except for the VL3500's lighting the set pieces and the front wash, I only use the Martin Mac2000 Washes in this scene. I chose these lights since they look much more like a Fresnel than most other moving lights. The look of the lens was definitely a consideration when choosing these fixtures.

The next scene introduces more color, but it is still monochromatic. Again, the Mac2000 Washes give that old Fresnel look. I change colors between songs in this segment, but never show a light using its color mixing. That wouldn't be "period." This is also when the followspots are used for the first time, leading up to larger concert events.

The Shea Stadium segment comes next. In this scene, I omitted the Mac2000 Washes and used the Mac700 Profiles. In addition to the two stadium lights brought in for this segment, I use harsh white tones to mimic the harsh stadium lighting. The colors change very slightly for each song, but I still kept the harsh "whiteness"... simply shifting the white from cooler to warmer slightly to create some variation. I introduce some atmospheric haze in this segment to accentuate the hard edge of the Mac700's thereby enhancing that "harsh light" feel. Strobe lights simulate flash photography during this scene... often driving the ushers crazy as they search for people taking photographs.

The next segment takes the audience to the Sgt. Pepper era. By this point The Beatles had stopped touring. This is when the lighting changes drastically. To introduce the scene, the main curtain is flown in and the audience watches a video on the side screens featuring commercials and scenes from that time period. Meanwhile, there is a scene shift happening backstage. Lights are rolled into place upstage flanking the drum riser and other scenic elements are brought out.

When the curtain opens and the band starts, the audience sees lights in various colors and patterns swirling around in the atmospheric haze along with dry ice effects and psychedelic imagery projected on all the screens. Up until now, it has all been monochromatic. Now the lighting is no longer about keeping it true to life. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is an album rich with color and symphonic overtones. This was definitely my favorite sequence to design, allowing me to use rich and saturated colors as seen on the album cover, the costumes, and in The Beatles' movies such as Yellow Submarine.

Lighting equipment supplied by Christie Lites
Media servers supplied by InFrame Designs

Click Here to read Part 2 of this interview.

Rain Light Plot