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Vari-Lite brings Greek charm

to New York theater

Photo credits: © Joan Marcus

Transforming the historic New York City Center stage into a Greek island for a production of Zorba is a big challenge. 

Step forward the Philips Vari-Lite VL4000 Spot

For lighting designer Ken Billington, the VL4000 Spot was ideal for the Broadway-scale production – a bright fixture that would give the Greek island the daylight punch required. Crucially, he had every confidence it would perform without a hitch: “With the VL4000 Spot my thought was that if it’s a Vari-Lite it’s going to work, and I wasn’t worried at all about the performance of the lights on the show.”


Another core requirement was to create a lighting design that was as natural as possible: “We used a lot of unsaturated color palettes, except when we went into the fantasy sequences, when we would inject more color saturation.” 


Billington was impressed with the luminaire’s quiet operation – vital in a theatre environment. “Never once did I notice the fan noise of the VL4000 Spot, or have the sound designer telling me they were too loud.”


Hung overhead on the first and second electric, the luminaires were trimmed at 28’: “The VL4000 Spots handled my specials with ease thanks to their gobos and specific color washes,” says Billington. “What truly made them fabulous was that their brightness really made the gobo projections punch through the 200 conventional fixtures that were lighting the performance area.”


Another great surprise was the frost. “When I put the frost in, I could still do the specials with plenty of brightness, but it didn’t look like a hard-edge fixture. The frost made the beam a beautifully soft special, and having one fixture that can do it all is perfect.”

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