Riverside Theatre’s lighting supervisor, Will Gibbons-Brown, recently found himself in the middle of every lighting designer’s most commonly recurring nightmare: he had 48 hours to light a musical from scratch. With only two days until previews for the first show of the season, the production suddenly found itself without a lighting designer. With a whole lot of show to light and very little time, High End Systems’ Lonestar came to the rescue in a big way.
Riverside Theatre is Florida’s largest professional theatre, nestled in the small coastal city of Vero Beach. Million Dollar Quartet, a jukebox musical surrounding the famous 1956 recording session that brought together Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins, was set to open the theatre’s season at the beginning of October. Luckily, they had Gibbons-Brown in house, who had a preexisting familiarity with the musical, having used the show as an example when teaching lighting education programs in the past.
The key to lighting a production like Million Dollar Quartet, Gibbons-Brown says, is creating beautifully 'sculpted moments' to showcase each performer’s portrayal of the show’s music legends. “Johnny Cash steps forward and starts singing one of his iconic songs and we’re sculpting around him” says Gibbons-Brown. “About 98% of the show is lit like a play with specific moments of sculpting and the other 2% of the show is a concert.” A light that would deliver in these moments of artistic sculpting just as precisely as in the show’s flashy concert-style finale was going to be crucial—especially with a ticking clock counting down to opening night.
This balance was struck thanks to this production’s MVPs: the theatre’s newly purchased Lonestar moving lights. “The thing that attracted me to the Lonestar from the get-go was their physical footprint,” Gibbons-Brown told ETC. “They’re such a small size, but their output is able to keep up with the larger movers.” This was especially important given the limitations of the space. “In our house, our electrics are defined by raceways on actual battens, so we don’t have much flexibility as to where we can put actual lights. We have specific weight restrictions on our backings as well. Using something that’s smaller but can still punch through with the other fixtures on the rig became pretty important.”
In addition to the new Lonestar fixtures, the theatre also sports a fleet of ColorSource Spot Deep Blues backstage, two SolaFrame 1500s, 32 Source Four Pars, and 30 Source Four ellipsoidals. All these fixtures sang great backup for the Lonestars, adding depth and richness to the Lonestars’ sculpting.
Even with the help of the High End Systems and ETC Luminaries, Gibbons-Brown says it took a village. “Creating this design and giving this show the fabulous lighting it deserved was only possible with the encouragement and support from my team at Riverside Theatre. Everyone saw this was a huge undertaking and their support was really the only way it was able to come together.”