‘Chicago’ production crew love new $3m centre

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The crew behind the effects for upcoming production Chicago are hailing the Queenstown Mem­ori­al Centre overhaul. 

The new-look centre, home to Showbiz Queenstown’s annual theatre shows, has had a $3 million makeover, improved facilities essential to quality productions. 

Christchurch-based professional lighting and video designer Dave Spark and local stage manager and set designer Marty Newell have been busy during the past week setting up the centre for the May 16-25 show. 

“There’s a lot more infrastructure here now, so we don’t have to spend time on getting it to a state where it’s workable,” Spark explains. 

His crew would normally spend two days up and down ladders, attaching lights to fixed beams across the top of the stage. With the improvements to the centre, those beams are controlled by winches and are easy to move  from the stage floor to the ceiling. 

“Instead of spending money on labour, we can spend it on other areas – like more lighting – to make it look good.” 

There’ll be more than 150 lights used, including “intelligent” moveable lights to help deliver an up-tempo musical. 

The stage expansion also means there’s more space for cast to get ready and to move around in between scenes. 

The increase in size hasn’t been without its challenges, however. 

“I designed the set and then came to see the sneak preview of the hall before it was opened, and I realised my design was too small so I had to start from scratch,” Newell says. 

The set is big but minimalist, he says, adding: “but with the added lighting it will bring it to life”. 

Newell and Spark are also working with Wakatipu High drama students who are learning the art of stage management, sound and lighting. 

With the set installed last weekend and rehearsals going well, Newell and Spark say the production will wow the audiences. 

“It’s going to be an amazing show, I’m really excited,” Newell says.