This is a continuation of Ringmasters! Rocky Part One, featuring Alex Timbers' musical version of Rocky and its talented team, including set designer Christopher Barreca, projection designers Dan Scully and Pablo Molina, costume designer David Zinn, sound designer Peter Hylenski, and lighting designer Christopher Akerlind.
For the final fight scene, Akerlind notes, "the Winter Garden explodes with an expansion of color and rhythm, as the boxing ring pushes out over the first eight rows of the orchestra. Those people are marshaled onto the stage for an in-the-round sense of a fight arena; it wouldn’t be as immersive in a proscenium setting. It’s also a flip flop of who’s where," explains Akerlind. "The theatre is actually an arena at the end of the show."
A battery of 12 Martin Professional MAC Aura LED fixtures are used for the big fight. "They strobe beautifully with clean, bright light," says Akerlind. These are used in the Jumbotron-like video display that comes in for the scene as well as a few around the proscenium. ETC Source Fours augment the Auras inside the "Jumbotron," which is built with two rectangles of truss inside each other, the inner one lowers and projection screens are on three sides.
To set the stage for this final moment, World Boxing Association gobos spin and scan the audience, and RGB linear tubular neon, primarily used in blue and white, which would have been fluorescents historically, flashes everywhere. "There are miles and miles of it used throughout the show, but all of it is on in the fight for the first time," notes Akerlind, who also uses bicentennial patriotic red, white, and blue for Apollo’s big entrance. In addition, on the mezzanine and orchestra level, Philips Color Kinetics ColorBlasts, ColorBlaze fixtures, and LED strip lights, as well as a lot of ballyhoos with the moving lights, help transform the auditorium.
Traxon programmable tubes are used for pixilated images, with Akerlind working closely with Dan Scully on color temperature and intensity to match the lighting and video, "such as the very gray training montages where the video production goes wild, as Rocky tries to get his body in shape for the fight," the LD explains. "In the first act, for ‘Raining,’ there is pretty realistic video rain and real rain. We worked together to make colors work. I met Dan when he was an elementary student, where his brother was the assistant director, so I have known him for a very long time. Then I saw him again at NYU when I did some teaching there."
Rocky marks the first time that Akerlind and Timbers have worked together. "I have rarely worked with anyone who sees everything so quickly and clearly," says Akerlind. "He gets that designers aren’t technicians and understands that the theatre is a place for storytelling. Interestingly, having done Rocky in Germany 18 months ago, we wanted to start with a reproduction of that, so the tech went okay other than scenic automation problems."
In relation to the lighting, Akerlind says, "The lamp on the card table and the sun don’t know if we are happy or sad. I’d rather use volume in the light, not change the color or try to illustrate what is happening on stage, but allow what is happening on stage to be seen in a legible way. We perceive with our eyes first, the most immediate of our senses, and I wanted the light to be a reflection of the realistic nature of the production.
"In a nutshell," Akerlind concludes, "what’s important about the show is the story of two characters who find each other. You want it to work out for them; you love them."
See more photos of Rocky in our latest issue of Live Design, now available for download.