FORT MYERS, FL – The high flying 2013 Tony Award-winning coming-of-age musical “Pippin” revels in the thrill of a touring troupe’s adventures. Still, as the play’s lead character discovers, life on the road is not without its trials and tribulations. In a classic case of life imitating art, Prather Touring is currently in the midst of a six-month 73-city cross-country US tour that has it performing “Pippin” in Spokane, WA, one week, Springfield, IL, the next, and Shreveport, LA, the week after that.
This relentless traveling schedule places a unique set of demands on a touring company – and its lighting rig. To address the latter, Prather Touring’s lighting director and production manager Russell Thompson has replaced the company’s old incandescent ellipsoidals with 12 Ovation E-260WW LED fixtures from CHAUVET Professional.
“Anything we can do to simplify our rig, reduce power consumption and lower transportation costs is a good idea,” said Thompson. “That is provided it doesn’t compromise the quality of our stage lighting, and the Ovations are certainly up to or better than the performance of our previous fixtures. We wanted to go as much as possible with LEDs for many reasons, one of which is so we wouldn’t have to carry dimmers. After looking at different LED ellipsoidals, we did a shootout — and the Ovation fixtures clearly won.”
On the current “Pippin” tour, all but eight fixtures in the Prather rig are LED units. The savings that have resulted from becoming largely LED have been astounding. “Instead of having two 400 amp services, I am now pulling 200 amps,” said Thompson. “We have our ellipsoidals mounted on truss, which we can now load in much more quickly without the dimmers. Plus our rig takes up much less space, so were able to use three trucks instead of four. Given our travel schedule, eliminating that extra truck saves us about $7,000 a week.”
Thompson has a total of 12 Ovation E-260WW ellipsoidals in his rig. He positions them on the first and second electric as well as on booms. The exact arrangement varies, depending on the stage configuration at each venue. “We play in a wide range of theaters, he said. “Stage width may vary considerable from one site to the next. It may go from 35’ to 60’. In all cases, the Ovation ellipsoidals, with their smooth dimming curve and other features, have the flexibility to adapt to any stage. In terms of brightness, the output is never in question.”
The flat even field of light produced by the Ovation E-260WW allows Thompson to create crisp sharp gobos, which he does quite often on scenery and dancers during the play’s active interludes. “At the end of the day ‘Pippin’ is a very energetic show,” he says. “Any light we use would have to keep up. So we didn’t add the Ovation LEDs just because they save money; they’re also very, very good lighting tools.”