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White Light at St James Theatre for The Last Five Years

White Light at St James Theatre for The Last Five Years

UK – The Last Five Years is written by Tony Award-winning Broadway composer Jason Robert Brown and tells the story of two New York lovers who fall in and out of love over the course of five years. The musical first premiered in Chicago in 2001 and has now arrived in London at the St James Theatre. The lighting designer for the show is Howard Hudson and he approached White Light to provide the lighting equipment. 

The Last Five Years opened last week to critical acclaim. It stars Samantha Barks and Jonathan Bailey and is directed by Jason Robert Brown himself. Regarding the production, Howard comments: “The set, which is designed by Derek McLane, is a dark blue brick box with naturalistic set pieces that are brought on throughout for particular numbers. One of the roles of my design was to give a sense of literal location along with reflect the sentiments expressed throughout. With the space being so blue and often quite sparse, I also had to ensure that the two actors were in constant focus and crisply cut from the background.”

As preparation for the production, Howard met with Jason and regularly visited the rehearsal room in a close collaboration. He then worked with WL to ensure he drew on equipment that would not only be suitable for the show but also come within budget.

In terms of the equipment, Howard drew on ETC Revolutions, Martin Mac 700 Profiles, Vari*Lite VL1000AS, Vari*Lite VL2500 Washes, Showline SL Strips and  ETC Source Four profiles. Howard states: “The Mac Profiles are used predominately for floor and set work while the ETC Revolutions are positioned front-of-house and essentially act like follow spots with Iris and Shutter modules. The VL2500 Washes carve the company out from the background and locate scenes on stage while LED battens and scrollers are used for set and floor dressing.”

Whereas Howard has worked on several classic musicals including La Cage aux Folles, Titanic and Ragtime, this is the first time he’s worked with the original composer on such a production. He comments: “It’s been a privilege and unique experience to work alongside the person who actually wrote the show. Therefore, if there were any questions on how we should approach a number of needed guidance on what a certain moment should look like, we could be guided by the man himself.”

The show plays until 3rd December, with the rest of the run virtually sold out. Howard has also lit another show running in the capital. Side Show is currently running at the Southwark Playhouse and, similar to The Last Five Years, WL also supplied the equipment on that particular show.

Howard comments: “As always I’ve had a great experience working with WL and they have been extremely helpful throughout. I’m really proud of the lighting on The Last Five Years; especially how it plays such an integral part in the show.” 

photos: Scott Rylander

White Light at St James Theatre for The Last Five YearsWhite Light at St James Theatre for The Last Five Years

11th November 2016

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