White Light has supplied the lighting equipment for the UK premiere of the Broadway musical Amélie, which recently embarked on a UK tour.
Originally performed on Broadway, Amélie is based on the 2001 romantic comedy film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and tells the story of an astonishing young woman who lives quietly in the real world but loudly in her mind. This UK premiere is directed by Michael Fentiman, stars Audrey Brisson and Danny Mac and features a lighting design by Elliot Griggs. Elliot explains: “Amélie is unlike anything I’ve ever worked on before. The film itself actually broke a lot of traditional concepts, with the central character being largely passive and the story being told through short vignettes, which together create a rich tapestry of 90s Paris, but also highlight its loneliness and isolation. Trying to encompass this successfully into a stage musical is no small feat! That said, the show manages to stay very true to the film. There are no big toe tapping numbers and the score, which was re-orchestrated by the fantastic Barney Race, steers the piece back towards its Parisian, folk-like roots; away from the Broadway-esque version of the Original Cast Recording”.
Alongside capturing the themes of the film, the creative team was also eager to catch its unique aesthetic. Elliot explains: “Anyone who knows the film will instantly recognise the image of Amélie in her red outfit surrounded by a muted green backdrop. Set designer Madeleine Girling’s beautiful dark green art-deco Métro station set holds the entire play, with changes of location achieved only by simple props or upright pianos which spring open into a market stall, tobacconist and, later, a sex shop.
He adds: “It was key we kept the colour palettes neutral, echoing the tones used in the original film. There’s a lot of warmth to the lighting, with the tungsten sidelight bathing the cast in sepia-like tones and bringing out the green of the set. With so many cast members on stage, all playing instruments, a lot of specials were used to highlight tiny tableaux throughout and draw the eye around the bustling stage”.
To create the specific feel he required, Elliot approached WL to supply his lighting equipment. He comments: “Considering Amélie is not a ‘big, loud’ musical, I purposefully avoided using a ’big, loud’ rig. Not only does the show have several minutes of complete silence, but I also needed to create high-speed train effects without a massive noisy moving light on the circle front. The units needed to be quiet, but also offer super-fast shuttering and a variable animation wheel. After some demonstrations, we discovered that the ROBE T1 Profile was the only unit that ticked all the boxes. I was really impressed by their optics and output, even over exceptionally long throw distances from some circle rails which are sometimes in excess of 15m.
He continues: “On stage, the booms are simple 6-way par can towers which create a beautiful tungsten glow across the whole playing area. Overhead there’s a variety of LED washes including Martin MAC Quantums and some ETC Source 4 LED Lustr Series 2s. I also used GLP X4 Batten 20s to create a solid, even backlight which looks particularly stunning shining through Madeleine Girling’s set”.
With Amélie being a touring production, this was something that Elliot also had to incorporate into his design. He comments: “I knew that my LX team had to be able to get the show in and up in just one day at most of the venues we visited. As a result, the booms were kept deliberately simple, and nothing overhead needed physically focusing. There are only 26 units overhead, 8 par can tower booms, 12 Lustrs in the slips, a standard house front wash for the curtain call and 3 ROBE T1 Profiles on the circle front. As I said before, this show is about its simplicity with the main focus on its characters hence I created a design which reflected that.”
The show has recently finished its UK tour to critical acclaim. It will soon receive its London transfer and will open at The Other Palace this November.
Photos courtesy of Pamela Raith Photography.