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“Mean Girls, The Musical” Brings Dynamic Visuals to Broadway via disguise media servers

PLSN Staff • Projection Connection News • April 18, 2019


NYC – Mean Girls, The Musical has been playing at Broadway’s August Wilson Theatre since April 2018. It’s a fast-moving expedition through Tina Fey’s infamous story, which explores the impact of the ever-fluctuating pecking order of high school girls. Based on the 2004 cult teen film of the same name; it has been gifted a fresh life for the stage. The new production features a dynamic, video-led design that seamlessly changes playing locations. Such scenic agility is facilitated by one of the most ambitious uses of story-enhancing video content on a Broadway show.

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Responsible for this video content is British video design team Finn Ross and Adam Young of FRAY Studio, who worked closely with the show’s director and choreographer, Casey Nicholaw and set designer, Scott Pask, to create the sophisticated and at times surreal world of North Shore High and its students.

The set comprises two stage-wide curved walls with sliding doors and panels. The top screen is set back to create a sense of depth and dimension. In addition, there are six LED screen legs that bleed off into the wings.

Images are delivered using five disguise gx 1 media servers, linked to 22 NovaStar NovaPro HD processors, and triggered by a combination of timecode and cues from the lighting and sound department.The content created in Notch is beat-perfect, complementing every change in mood, tempo and energy and ensuring that the show feels slick from beginning to end.

Video content switches scenic location with filmic dexterity from present day to the past – fantasy locations, basements, school corridors, a swimming pool, a party, canteens to classrooms – and that’s just in the first act.

“Casey had a very clear and absolute vision for the stage design and Tina Fey’s script changes location so fast it’s often hard to keep up,” explains Finn. “Our design approach had to balance this speed. Casey sees video as a crucial element of the detailed choreography of Mean Girls, an extra layer of narrative, so content has to move and change to the same beat and count as the performers, yet still convey a believable environment.”

The challenge didn’t end there. Casey wanted to see the entire show visualised and cued to the count of the music before rehearsals began. The key to achieving this was the use of the disguise 3D visualiser system, which enabled FRAY to clearly communicate their content ideas to Casey and Scott in real time.

“Casey knew exactly how many bars it was going to take to get props or people on, around and off the stage,” explains Finn. “The visuals had to sync perfectly to that pacing. By using the disguise visualiser on a laptop, we could show Casey exactly how the stage video would look from any seat in the house, at any point, in any scenic state.”

By the time the cast began rehearsals, FRAY had the entire show’s content rendered and visually plotted: “Finn was in New York in rehearsals, while I was in London animating,” explains Adam. “We completed the second tech stage by the time we went to Washington for the technical stage rehearsals. This process gave us more time to fine-tune the detail of every scene, something we’re very proud of. We owe Casey a huge credit for that. I don’t think I’ve encountered a director who knew more clearly what they wanted. He’s inspirational to work with.”

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