SAN JUAN, PR – Whimsical, fanciful and carefree, Mary Poppins nevertheless calls forth a valuable lesson that transcends time and place. In telling the story of how an irrepressible nanny helps a busy banker slow down to discover the family he’s been largely ignoring, the story reminds us about what is really important in life. Perhaps this balance between the lighthearted and heartfelt is one reason why the story, which was first written in 1934, has been so enduring, being made into an iconic Disney film in 1964, and then 40 years later into a musical that has been performed in languages ranging from English and Icelandic to Czech and Spanish.
Lighting designer Toni Fernandez-Medina enhanced the magic of Mary Poppins recently in a theatrical production at San Juan’s Centro de Bellas Artes Santurce by calling on the versatility and gobo capabilities of the Rogue R2 Spot moving LED fixture from CHAUVET Professional. Deploying 10 of the fixtures, which were supplied by Musique Xpress, she flew two units on the first electric pole, four in between the second and third electric, and four between the third and fourth electric.
Fernandez-Medina selected the Rogues for the Mary Poppins performance, which was produced by PBS Productions, after consulting with Musique Xpress. “I asked Mircord, one of the Musique Xpress technicians, if he could give me a demonstration of the different moving fixtures they have. After seeing their variety of fixtures, I decided the Rogues were the right ones for Mary Poppins,” she recalled. “I selected these fixtures because their light is powerful, their spread good enough to be used as a wash, and at the same time they could be used as spot lights for effects.”
Unlike the film version of Mary Poppins, which relies primarily on special effects (who can forget Julie Andrews flying through the air with her umbrella?), the theatrical version of the classic tale captivates audiences with a blend of effects and dance. Supporting the magical aura of the production’s choreography with richly textured gobos was of paramount importance to the lighting designer when she put together her rig.
“Mary Poppins is a musical that I consider to be refreshing and light,” she said. “My goal was to enhance the choreography and the scenery without taking away from the directing and the acting. I relied on the Rogue’s gobos mostly to enhance the choreography. During the songs and dances I used the gobos — they helped by giving the choreography a sort of texture.”
At other points in the production, Fernandez-Medina drew on the Rogue’s varied performance features to achieve her vision. “There were times I needed to create depth on stage and enhance the scenery, so I used the Rogue Spots as back lights to wash scenic elements,” she said. “The Rogue fixtures also worked perfectly when Mary Poppins was flown. We used them instead of the followspots to light the actor. The followspots could not reach her when she was in flight.”
The Rogue R2 Spots, which have an illuminance of 5,500 lux at 5 meters, were bright enough to create a vivid impression on stage at the spacious Antonio Paoli Theatre (also known as Sala de Festivales) inside the Centro de Bellas Artes Santurce. Yet as LED fixtures, the spots produced less heat on stage.
Although it was an outstanding success, the lighting of Mary Poppins was not without its challenges. “The rigging for one of the flights was in front of the catwalk, which made it challenging to light the front of the stage and at times some of the other areas as well,” said Fernandez-Medina. “Still with teamwork we prevailed.”
On the subject of teamwork, the lighting designer thanked the Musique Xpress team. “Enrique Nuñez of Musique Xpress and Mircord were very helpful,” she said. “They understand the mind of a lighting designer, which made this project more rewarding.”