White Light on 42nd Street at Theatre Royal

Considered by many to be one of the biggest Broadway musicals of all time, 42nd Street has now arrived in London where it has received rave reviews from audiences and critics alike. Starring Grammy Award winner Sheena Easton, this all singing, high-kicking spectacle is currently playing at Theatre Royal Drury Lane – London’s biggest stage. WL was called upon the provide the lights on this production.

42nd Street tells the story of young Peggy Sawyer who is fresh off the bus from small-town America and just another face in the chorus line on Broadway’s newest show. Yet when the leading lady gets injured, Peggy might just have the shot at stardom which she’s always dreamed off.

The lighting design is by Olivier Award winner Peter Mumford. He comments: “Despite its iconic status, I have never lit nor indeed seen 42nd Street before. I’d say this was an advantage though as it allowed me to enter the process with no preconceptions. With all classic shows like this, they offer you the chance to reimagine the piece and bring your own specific look to what is a timeless story.”

Due to the show’s extravagant and colourful set design, Peter had to ensure that his lighting design not only worked alongside this but also enhanced it. He comments: “There’s a lot of scenery in this production which includes a large number of beautifully painted cloths and structures. As a result, this meant that the onstage lighting positions were very much defined by the hanging and order of the scenery. There are also around 5,000 light bulbs built into the design which feature heavily in some of the show’s numbers – something which was needed to emphasise the 1930s period feel.”

To achieve his design, Peter approached WL and drew on the company’s extensive inventory. This includes the Philips Vari*Lite VL3500Q Spots, Martin MAC Vipers, Clay Paky Alpha Washes, ETC Source 4 Lustr 2 Profiles and an ETC Ion 1K Console. Peter adds: “Due to the fact that there is so much scenery downstage in the show, this meant the lighting bar was slightly further away than I would have preferred. Therefore, I used an advance truss downstage of the proscenium, along with a range of adaptable fixtures, to work around this.”

The rig also features the GLP Impression X4 Bar 20s which WL has invested in heavily and has more than 200 in its hire inventory. The bars have also been recently used on An Inspector Calls, La Cage Aux Folles along with the first ever lighting rig at Shakespeare’s Globe. Peter adds: “The GLP bars were particularly impressive as we pixel-mapped them, meaning that each individual cell was made available. They were extremely useful when it came to lighting the cloths and, due to their tilt and flood facility, were able to create a punchy backlight wash.”

The show has now opened and received rave reviews across the board. The opening night was attended by the Duchess of Cambridge, with the production raising money for East Anglian’s Children’s Hospices Charity, for which the Duchess is a Patron.

Peter concludes: “I hope I managed to bring my own style to a truly iconic show. I’d like to thank Declan Randall, my associate, John Tapster, the production electrician, along with Vic Brennan, who was my programmer. That also goes for the entire in house crew under the leadership of Steve McAndrew – great support and work throughout the five weeks of production.”

Info: www.whitelight.ltd.uk

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