Broadway Revival of Bob Fosse's Dancin' with Lighting Design by David Grill


Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

The original production of Bob Fosse's Dancin' debuted on Broadway in 1978 at the Broadhurst Theatre and was a smash hit that ran for four years. This spring, the show's first revival on Broadway opened at the Music Box Theatre with lighting design by David Grill and lighting services provided by PRG.

As a multiple Emmy Award winning Lighting Designer and Director, Grill is widely known for his work on Super Bowl halftime shows, the Olympics and other large-scale televised events. However, his resume also includes lighting for choreographers and dance companies across the world, making him a perfect choice for Dancin'.

Grill's concept was "to use the light to become a part of the show’s choreography." Chris Conti, PRG’s Chief Innovation Officer, and PRG's lighting team in Secaucus NJ worked closely with Grill to engineer the large lighting system. Conti conducted several demos using equipment from a wide range of manufacturers, providing valuable side-by-side feature comparisons, allowing Grill to experiment and make informed design choices. And since real estate for lighting positions in the theatre is so limited, Conti also brought in some smaller-profile fixtures for Grill to evaluate in the studio.

Behind the scenes of the production of the musical

Photo by Dave Grill.

To achieve Dancin's overall creative aesthetic, Grill collaborated closely with the show's Video Designer, Finn Ross, each driving the other's choice of color palettes, brightness levels, and treatment of scenic elements. When fully integrated, Ross's large upstage LED wall and Grill's lighting created moments that wouldn't have been possible using only video or lighting.

As the process continued, Alex Donnelly, PRG's GM and VP, Broadway, worked with Grill to ensure that the solutions that best served the design were also within budget. "Alex is one of the go-to people on Broadway, someone who can provide the service and support you need. PRG does that; they meet my expectations and desires,” said Grill. Side lighting, an essential element in any dance-heavy show, is integral to Grill's design on Dancin’. For these positions, he selected a combination of ETC Source 4 LED Series 2 Lustrs for their brightness and flexibility, and Martin MAC Encore Performance CLDs for focus, shutter, and gobo options.

Grill’s design also incorporated PRG's GroundControl Followspot System for remote control of front of house truss spots. This system allows followspots to be positioned anywhere in the lighting rig, not just in the traditional spot locations which are often less than ideal. Additionally, the operator and the fixture are separated – in Dancin', the operators are in the spot booth.

"The Ground Control Followspot System is great because having the fixture at an ideal angle helps keep the light contained on the performer, with less spill. And because we put some of the functions on the console (an ETC Eos for this show), we can also do instant perfectly synchronized color changes,” said Grill.

GroundControl Followspot operator, Laura Prather on Dancin'

GroundControl Followspot operator, Laura Prather on Dancin'. Photo by Dan Ozminkowski.

For the truss spots, Grill is using the new Best Boy LED from PRG, although any automated fixture can be modified for use in GroundControl. Conti is responsible for overseeing the LED upgrade of the popular Best Boy Spot HP fixture and was looking for a beta tester, and Grill was a willing candidate.

Conti said, "I knew Dave would be interested in trying out the new fixture. I’ve known him for a long time and worked with him on some really large projects. His attention to detail is phenomenal. He really understands what the gear can and can’t do as well as how his design choices will affect the load in, programming, servicing, and load out a show.”

The PRG Best Boy Spot HP fixture has been upgraded from a 1600-watt arc lamp to an 850-watt LED engine. At over 30,000 lumens, the 850-watt LED matches the output of the arc version but uses only half the power. Additionally, the LED engines have a rated life span of 50,000 hours (about 5 and a half years) which far exceeds the 800-hour life span of the arc lamps.

From Grill’s perspective, PRG was the perfect technical partner for the show, and he praised Conti and the PRG Broadway team.

Dancin' on Broadway

Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

"PRG isn’t only about the gear. They excel at understanding what's at stake. They want to make you, the designer, look good. And their response time is impressive. When I'm at the theatre, it's 5 pm, and I realize I need something; low and behold, it's there at 8 am the next morning."

For his work on Dancin', Grill has been nominated for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lighting Design of a Musical.

Learn more about PRG’s work in the theatre.