Goodspeed Musicals, a professional musical theatre located in an historic Opera House on the banks of the Connecticut River in East Haddam, Connecticut, is using 15 Ayrton Diablo S fixtures from PRG for its new production of 42nd Street, the tale of the chorus kid who becomes an overnight star, that’s filled with a hit parade of songs and dance.  ACT Entertainment is the exclusive distributor of Ayrton lighting in North America.

Goodspeed is the first regional theatre in America to earn two special Tony Awards, one for outstanding contributions to the American musical and a second for distinguished achievement.  Goodspeed mounts both new and newly revived musicals each year on its main stage at the Opera House and its second stage in Chester – a total of more than 400 performances during the April to December season attracting 130,000 patrons to the Connecticut River Valley.

The revival of 42nd Street is the first theatrical production for which PRG has supplied Ayrton Diablo S.  The musical marks the first time that New York-based lighting designer, Cory Pattak, has designed a show for the Opera House, although he has previously worked on shows in both of Goodspeed’s spaces.  It’s also the first time he has used Ayrton fixtures.

Pattak had noticed theatrical colleagues starting to use Ayrton fixtures and was interested in exploring the product line when he attended a vendor showcase featuring Ayrton luminaires.  Earlier this year PRG offices worldwide committed to an investment of more than 1,000 automated LED luminaires from Ayrton. PRG USA added Perseo Profiles and Beams, Khamsins and Diablos to its inventory.

“When I saw Diablo at the vendor showcase I was very impressed with it,” says Pattak. “I couldn’t believe how small it was, yet it had all those features and shuttering.  It seemed like the perfect light for 42nd Street, and PRG was able to get them to us with the heavy frost option as well as install some show-specific gobos.”

“Diablo offers a wide feature set to satisfy a lot of design demands and deliver the most bang for the buck for smaller houses,” says Alexander Donnelly, VP & GM, Broadway at PRG.  “Diablo is bright, lightweight, easy to manipulate and has an impressive zoom range.  It’s a compelling workhorse for tighter theatrical budgets.”

Pattak notes that the Goodspeed Opera House is “a very small space with limited lighting positions and height, so we don’t have room for big moving lights.  We’re doing an enhanced production of 42nd Street with a bigger budget than usual, so there was an opportunity to bring in moving lights, but we needed something small and versatile.

“In addition, the production utilized a full stage LED video wall which added to the overall power needs in a 60-year-old building not accustomed to supporting this much technology.” he says.  “Diablo has the smallest power draw of the fixtures we looked at, which was another great point in its favour.”

A versatile, feature-rich 300W profile luminaire, Ayrton Diablo is the smallest, lightest and most efficient luminaire of its category.  Diablo S, specially designed for stage applications, is equipped with a monochromatic LED light source that can generate extremely high output and metallic white light calibrated at 7000 K.

Pattak mounted 11 Diablo fixtures in the overhead grid where they provide down light, back light, gobo washes and specials.  Two are positioned on the balcony rail for drops and scenery, and two more are on FOH box booms for lighting the actors.

“I love how bright and uniform the Diablos are.  They have an incredible zoom, and the colours are great,” Pattak reports.  “They’re so versatile that they work for everything I need: a tight back light, a nice soft wash and gobo wash.”

All four FOH fixtures operate in silent mode, an especially important feature for the two Diablos on the balcony rail, which are just four or five feet from the heads of audience members.  “The fan mode is so super silent that people never hear it; the fixtures are essentially invisible from that standpoint,” Pattak notes.  “And the Diablos are just as bright and effective in silent mode, so there’s no issue about making compromises.”

He also likes the fixtures’ dimming curve and great colour.  “We do lots of slow fades, and there’s no drop off on the bottom as with some LEDs,” Pattak says.  “One of the hardest things to accomplish is good colour on people’s faces that doesn’t look synthetic or artificial.  I’m very happy with the colours we’ve been able to achieve – really subtle pastels and whites and really good saturated colours when needed.  It’s hard to do both well, but Diablo succeeds.”

PRG’s Donnelly attended one of the first performances of 42nd Street at the Goodspeed Opera House.  “Dance-heavy musicals are often an opportunity for lighting designers to show off the bells and whistles of moving lights,” he says.  “But I was most proud of how Cory used Diablo during dramatic moments and moments of reflection.  Diablo has great intensity, and when you narrow the beam you almost get a silhouette from behind and a real crisp look that makes you sit up and pay attention.  If the purpose of lighting is to heighten the experience and communicate ideas, Cory has done a really good job of using Diablo to bring that out.”

Pattak says that, “Alex has been fantastic about reaching out and connecting with designers and building relationships.  He’s a huge theatre fan and really interested in our shows, which I haven’t seen from someone in a rental house before.  Alex is genuinely excited about theatre and had a big hand in getting us the gear at a price that worked for our budget.  He was interested in investing in me and this show.”

He also appreciates how James Suit, in ACT’s Regional Outside Sales, “walked me through the entire Ayrton product line.  My experience with Diablo makes me want to try more Ayrton fixtures.”

“Theatrical is not as familiar with Diablo as other markets, but since Cory jumped in and likes them so much, I feel very comfortable about recommending them to other lighting designers,” notes Donnelly.

“I know it sounds like I’m gushing, but I think Diablo is great,” says Pattak.  “They’re the ideal workhorse fixture for off-Broadway or regional theatres – smaller houses where you can’t use big moving lights.  But maybe I should keep how great Diablo is a secret or they won’t be available the next time I need them!”

Text: Julie Harper
Photos: © Cory Pattak

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