Theatre Lighting Help

Hi there. I spent about 12 years doing audio FOH / Monitor mixes before getting fed up with touring and not being at home, then went into corporate AV / lighting. All of this was pretty much working with rock and rolll bands so pars / rays were the lamp of choice and budget.

I now find myself in the situation of having to design the lighting for a production of Cats and am a little overwhelmed to put it mildly.

To add to the complexity the producer wants the show to look just like the DVD, which would be great if I had a huge budget and loads of time for designing and programming which I dont. I have minimal budget and 1 day of tech prior to the first show, and besides what is the point of designing if I am just copying someones elses design in any case.

I have spent many hours reading through these forums so thought I would ask some questions of you people who are far more knowledgable than I.

When I watch the vid the predominant colours I see are blue and magenta / purple, mainly midnight type lighting effects. I have read many posts on here in regards to using a cool and a warm colour from either side when lighting your areas, so how does that apply in this case if I am looking for predominately midnight blue / magenta type scenes.

I do understand about dividing the stage into areas, and in the case of this show probably no different, but it always appears as through the rear scenery is in most cases an alternate colour to the main action point at the time, so comments on this would be appreciated also.

As I have only really used basic rock and roll low budget type lighting I would love some advice on lamp choice for this as well. There is a standard house rig with the ability to add additional lamps to compliment this. The inhouse crew will rig whatever design I send to them.

Any advice on lamp selection and placement would be very much appreciated. Below is the lilst of standard lamps as well as additional available.

Quantity Luminare
6 1kw 8/16 Zooms
18 1.2kw Condensers
12 650kw 22/40 Zooms
8 2kw Fresnels
16 1kw Fresnels
4 650wkw Fresnels
20 1kw Par 64 MFL
15 1.25kw Iris 4’s
100 2.4kw Dimmers
20 5kw Dimmers
1 Encore XL 512 DMX Control Console

Additional available

Quantity Description
61 1kw Profiles
24 1/2kw Profiles
4 2kw Fresnels
38 1kw Fresnels
28 1/2kw Fresnels
9 1kw Iris 2s
12 1/2kw Cyc500s
20 1kw Pallis 1s
60 1kw Par64 MFL
2 1.2kw MSR Follow spot
8 Martin Pro218 Roboscans

If anyone knows this show and would be willing to give advice it would be most appreciated. There seems to quite a bit of depth of lighting on the scenery, not sure how they have done this in the original production though. As I said I dont have the huge budget or the varilights that were used for the original production, so have no hope of desire to try to replicate this, although being able to get similar colours and the basics down would be nice.

I have also attached a pic of the standard plot which can be changed in anyway I would like as it will be rigged for the show in question. Thanks very much for your help in advance.




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Active Member
There will probably be 10 pages with advice by the end of the day, but I will start it off.

With ellipsoidals, the general rule of thumb is to have the fixtures 45 degrees to the right and left of the area being lit, and 45degrees up. This will help eliminate shadows and give a more natural light.

The ideal of warm and cool colors will still apply, but you will differ the intensities. For the blue/purples, I would put those into fresnel's and hang them above what is being lit. You can get the rich colors on the set and still have a light from the house electrics (from FOH in sound lingo) on the actors that will make them seem to stand out from the set.

If you try to light everything from FOH with the purples and dark blues, the actors will get lost in the darkness.


Senior Team
Senior Team
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Not a lot of time so I'll just add in on the color issue for now...

There's a delicate balance between color for scenic look and effect and not making the actors look weird because their skin is blue. Speaking generally you rarely want a deeply saturated color on an actor's face. As was suggested, put those colors into down light, side light, and into lighting the set. From the front you want to use colors that are similar and to those deep colors but have high transmission rates (gels that are more clear in appearance and allow more white light through) in order to get some "white-ish" light on those actors. Some of the standard front light high transmission gels are: (Rosco) 2, 3, 6, 10, 33, 51, and 60. If you look at the little chart in the gel swatch book that goes with each color it tells you the transmission percentage.

Another strategy you will see in musicals, often on the big solo number, is to light the whole stage in deep low transmission rate colors and light the lead singer with a follow spot that has a high transmission rate color in it to make the actor pop.


Senior Team Emeritus
Premium Member
Assuming high output lamps and US lamps: (Are you in Europe which would tend to be other types?)
6 1kw 8/16 Zooms @575w: Osram HPR 575/115; @750w: Phillips #6981P
18 1.2kw Condensers (No idea of what it is.)
12 650kw 22/40 Zooms (650,000 Watt Zoom?) 650w zoom... what’s the brand and model?
8 2kw Fresnels @2Kw: CYX
16 1kw Fresnels (What’s the brand and model?)
4 650wkw Fresnels (What’s the brand and model?)
20 1kw Par 64 MFL @ 1Kw: FFR; @ 1.2Kw: GFA
15 1.25kw Iris 4’s (What’s the brand and model?)

Additional available

61 1kw Profiles (What’s the brand and model?)
24 1/2kw Profiles (What’s the brand and model?)
4 2kw Fresnels @2Kw: CYX
38 1kw Fresnels (What’s the brand and model?)
28 1/2kw Fresnels (What’s the brand and model?)
9 1kw Iris 2s (What’s the brand and model?)
12 1/2kw Cyc500s (What’s the brand and model?)
20 1kw Pallis 1s (What’s the brand and model?)
60 1kw Par64 MFL @ 1Kw: FFR; @ 1.2Kw: GFA
2 1.2kw MSR Follow spot (The 1.2Kw MSR gets somewhere but is it double or single ended lamps in use?) (What’s the brand and model?)
8 Martin Pro218 Roboscans @200w: MSD 200/2


We just had a touring production of cats come through, I don't know if that's the same as the DVD though... Anyways, one of the things that I don't think has been addresssed yet is the depth of lighting question you had. I was an electrician for the show, so I did the focus from FOH, and watched the show twice from the house. They had a lot of texture in the lighting (Gobos) both from the ML's they had and in the conventional fixtures in FOH and on stage. The ML's really didn't do much, so don't worry about not having that. With what you do have, I'd try to throw a couple diffierent gobo washes in there (maybe one magenta, one dark blue, etc)... either from FOH or as high sides on stage-that will help add some interesting texture to the set with light. They also had a tower on each side, downstage, that they used for side lights. Also, are you going to do the whole space ship thing flying out at the end? They had lights inside that so when it was flown out it looked pretty neat...

I agree, there's no point in designing if you're just going to copy the design. However, you can get the basic idea from your director (or from the DVD), and then create your own design with those basic concepts or goals in mind.

Good luck! When's the show goin' up?
Ok now for the reply so I hope this doesnt go for too long, and that I dont miss anyone who has commented.


Remember you are talking to a daft audio guy here so forgive me if I am not familiar with all of the LX terms. Yes I did do lighting for about 5 years, but as I said for corporate shows and functions etc, so was generally themed but usually nothing fancy at all with lamps, and no luxury of various positioned bars to hang from either so to me this rig is like being a kid in the candy store.

My intention was to use the Fresnels for lighting from above using mainly blue and magenta to get the midnight look and to emulate the other scenes roughly based on the DVD, they will be the basic overall stage washes. To light the cast I would be using the FOH position lamps with lighter gels to bring out the faces so as they are not just washed in the blue etc. I only have Lee filters to choose from right at the moment and am not even going to get into that discussion Lee vs Rosco.


As mentioned above the plan is to use the darker colours from above and from the sides and using lighter colours from the front. That much I am aware of as even in rock stuff you still want to see faces and some detail on stage. This show will definately be using follow spots, probably 2 so that angle has also been considered.


Brands and models I dont have, although I do think a lot of the lamps are Selecon. The list that I posted is basically taken from the theatres website and is all the information that I have available to me at this time.


Gobo's were definately something that I was considering. In the DVD there are some obvious numbers in which they are used, but I think I will also be using them on the set to give some depth and make this look less flat. As stated above Fresnels for the main area washes with the addition of front lighting where needed and on the set still undecided as to which lamps to use. I am most familier with pars, but I do understand that you do not have too much control of beam with those so they may not be suitable for lighting the set itself. I could probably use additional Fresnels keeping a tight focus on them to minimise bleed onto the main stage area, and overlay that with a variety of breakup / pattern gobo's to add some interest and depth to the rear set.

Would love to do the lifting tyre bit at the end, although havent a clue how to, and probably not the budget either to do it. The backdrop is challenging enough, although I think a star cloth with a moon box in front and a black scrim in front of that should do the job, not sure about the clouds though.

The plan right now is to get a basic idea from the DVD and then to do my own thing. You can only do so much on a limited budget with limited fixtures and if you try to recreate the DVD without all of the suitable pieces it is just going to look bad I think. I would rather simplify and do a great show than try to get too complex and stuff it up.

Show runs from 28 - 31 March and then moves theatres and runs from 11 - 21 April.

Yes I am from down under, hence the weird time of my posts to you guys probably.

Thanks for all the information so far and I do look forward to any further information or advice that you may have to offer that is going to help me to do a great show with this one.




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Premium Member
Departed Member
Ok now for the reply so I hope this doesnt go for too long

I think the vast majority of us won't get worried by a long post. If it is interesting we will read it, if not, we'll just keep scrolling down.

Yes I am from down under, hence the weird time of my posts to you guys probably.

I wouldn't worry about post times either. I seem to have a bug that sporadically displays the times wrong and to be honest most of the time I just ignore them. Its just easier than attempting to work out what the time in say the states was when it got posted. And besides, what time someone posts is only going to be relevant if it is something like a happy new year type message, otherwise the time is just a number.

If you've done a copy paste from the theatre's stock list, I'm guessing this might be off a website in which case a link might not be a bad thing...


Senior Team Emeritus
Premium Member
Ah’ thanks Chris... thought it was sounding very dark side.

I’ll punt where I can in converting but short of knowing what’s what specific fixture, it would be very difficult. Those from Down Under might be able to help with the lamp choices better. Only things that really translate are the roboscans that normally would take a MSD 200, but the MSD 200/2 if you have the option is a better lamp. This and more info about the follow spot in using a double or single ended lamp would be necessary. In theory it should be a MSR 1200HR as the double ended version from Phillips would be a MSI 1200. The MSR 1200HR than potentially is the follow spot lamp and brand to brand, there is slight differences but not enough to worry about.

8 2kw Fresnels @2Kw/230v: FKK / CP-41 & CP-73
20 1kw Par 64 MFL @ 1Kw/230v: EXE / CP-62

Additional available
4 2kw Fresnels @2Kw/230v: FKK / CP-41 & CP-73
60 1kw Par64 MFL @ 1Kw/230v: EXE / CP-62
2 1.2kw MSR Follow spot: ?MSR 1200HR
8 Martin Pro218 Roboscans @200w: MSD 200/2


Active Member
Yes you can light from 45s, sides, top and back and be in good shape, but if you're inventory/space is a bit slim you can creatively use direct front and sides well.

Depending on the situation, I tend to find you can get away with the "broadway house" lighting as I call it and light from a not-so-saturated color from the front and boost the sides like crazy. Mostly, because it helps accident movement in dance/musicals. If you've got stage booms, this may be a viable option, or just load up the pipe-ends with side lighting or something. It's a matter of preference and the show. This works well if you're audience spans a large distance. If it's really intiment, then 45s is a good way to go.

There's no "right" way, but 45's will do you good. If you're a bit more confident in color choice and focusing, the front and sides along with a top and backlight works well too in many situations.

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