Written by legendary comedian Mel Brooks, Young Frankenstein is the musical comedy based on the Oscar-nominated smash hit film of the same name. Following a run on Broadway in 2007, this hilarious show has now made its way to London and opened last night at the Garrick Theatre. As one of the leading lighting suppliers to the West End, White Light was called upon to provide the lighting equipment.
The lighting designer for the show is Ben Cracknell, who comments: “I have always been a huge fan of Mel Brooks’ films so was thrilled when I was approached to light this. Both Susan Stroman, the Director and Choreographer, and Mel felt that the humour of the show would work much better in a more intimate Vaudeville style so the show was designed around this concept”.
Young Frankenstein features a set design by Beowulf Boritt that is centred around a series of painted cloths depicting the locations from a Medical School to a Deserted Railway Station. I wanted my lighting style to pick out the beauty in what, in essence, is a series of paintings. I also wanted to flavour my lighting style with the zaniness that seems to pervade throughout all of Mel’s work!”
To achieve this, Ben visited WL in order to draw on the company’s extensive hire inventory. He comments: “The Vaudeville style of the show with its four portals and painted cloths shaped my design significantly. On stage, the biggest challenge was to light the numerous painted cloths in what is a very small amount of space. The cloths have both opaque sections to front light (such as solid buildings and ships) and translucent sections to back light (windows, water, the sky). As a result, I visited WL HQ where I spent a lot of time experimenting with different types of cloth lighting battens”.
Ben eventually decided to draw on the Robert Juliat DALIS 860. He comments: “I was extremely impressed with the colour and even intensity output from these units, when lighting cloth as close as 50cm and as far away as 2m”. To ensure that all of the intricate details of the cloths were highlighted, Ben drew on four Philips VL 3500s. He explains: “I loaded these with a series of custom ‘mask’ gobos which picked out scenic detail from trees to windows to signs; meaning I could be incredibly selective in how the cloths were lit”.
Ben also drew on a row of Martin MAC Aura XBs to backlight the cloths along with Chroma-Q Color Force 72s for the furthest upstage and downstage cloths. Ben adds: “The stage layout of portals and cloths meant I divided the stage into horizontal bays of lighting. These were cross-lit by ladders of ETC Source Four Lustr 2s then top-lit by Viper DXs and VL3500 Spots. And, of course, a show like this would not be complete without a fine array of strobes for lighting effects – hence the Martin Atomic 3000s!”.
The show has now opened to rave reviews and will run in the capital until next February. Ben adds: “This was a fantastic show to work on. I really enjoyed my time at the Garrick, especially working with the Chief Electrician Matt Watling and his team. I would also like to thank my own team, Chris Winn (Programmer), Charlotte Burton (Assistant LD) and Theo Chadha (Production Electrician), along with the team at WL”.
WL’s Managing Director Bryan Raven comments: “We are delighted to supply Young Frankenstein as it embarks on its first-ever West End run. We have also supplied Heisenberg which opened on Monday at the Wyndham’s, Ink which recently opened at the Duke of York’s and Venus in Fur which opens at Theatre Royal Haymarket later this month. Our constant investment in the very latest technology, coupled with our renowned customer service, means we are able to provide lighting designers with the support they need on any show”.