ColorSource finds the soul in Signature Theatre’s re-invention of A Chorus Line

Date Posted: 1/6/2020

Photo by Christopher Mueller at Signature Theatre

A Chorus Line is a classic because of its depiction of the versatile, fantastically-talented chorus dancers. Now, a new production at Washington D.C.’s Signature Theatre has put their own stamp on the show with a new vision, new choreography, and a new lighting design that features the versatile, fantastically-talented ColorSource Spot from ETC. 

“The goal was to keep the soul of the show, but put it in a new wrapper,” says Lighting Designer Adam Honoré. “We wanted to fight the idea that it had to look like we were in a theatre — complete with borders and lighting instruments — or even in a rehearsal room. We wanted it to be just about each individual character. We wanted to capture all 18 leads as bodies moving through space.” 

The original line on the stage floor was incorporated literally and metaphorically into a new set that was (if possible) even more stripped down and angular than the original. The scenic design “stretched” the stage along the line to deliver an almost Cinemascope, wide-screen feeling. Literally, the line was embedded into the set in various locations as LED tape hidden under milk-white plexiglass. “The multiple lines disappear when you choose to light them or not,” explains Honoré. This allowed him to move the line around stage to create a fantastical environment when characters would tell their story, and practically it gave the illusion of a deeper stage. When the light line moved upstage, characters had a lot more room downstage of the line to tell their story. 

Photo by Christopher Mueller at Signature Theatre

But the crisp, three-sided box of scenery meant that there was no way to get lighting on to the stage from top lighting or high side positions. Honoré didn’t bat an eye. “I just said ‘If you can get me 14 ColorSource Spots we can do a show.’” He took the fixtures and put seven on each side of the stage, eight feet off the ground in the boom light position. “We lined them up and kicked them on, and they were amazing. They felt like really nice Kander side lights.”

The ColorSource Spots were on the entire show and contributed to the contemporary aesthetic of the show without disrupting its classic feel. The ColorSource Spots let Honoré create looks that were big, exciting and flashy — super-saturated with deep blues, punchy and nice for the montage — but also ones that contained a range of subtle shades and corrections that allowed Honoré to dial in exactly the right look during solo numbers. “For a lot of the show I got to use a range of color correction for skin, or moonlight blues, to create these stunning looks on stage,” he says. “They didn’t feel like LEDs. It felt like a show in 2019, but using 1975 colors.”  

And getting the right color appropriate to the ‘70s palette was obviously incredibly important to Honoré and the entire design team. “We spent about a day or day and a half doing a lot of picking of colors and color matching, looking at the subtle undertones of costumes,” says Honoré. “We’d add a little more purple or green, or subtract some here and there to make the costumes look more becoming. That was the most important piece of the show. The ColorSource fixtures work really well when you want to play with percentages or color. Other instruments if you make just a small change to one set of diodes — take away two percent of green — the output varies wildly. But in ColorSource it fades so nicely. It’s very helpful when you’re getting specific with color. They’re fine-tuned to desaturate without destroying color composition. With the ColorSource, every color feels authentic thanks to how they have all the diodes working together. That’s what made them feel so much more charming to look at.”

ColorSource on A Chorus Line

A Chorus Line will remain a classic no matter how you envision it, and Honoré would like to keep envisioning it with the ColorSource Spot. “I’ve used the whole gamut of other companies’ instruments, but the color mixing is never as good or looks as charming on skin tones as with the ColorSource. The CS Spot did so much more than I needed or asked for. These instruments are underappreciated. The light really works with you and gives you the range of color and dynamics you’re looking for.”