ADJ’s Focus Profile Illuminates Lavish Production of Dennis DeYoung’s ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’

Last summer, eight of ADJ’s flagship Focus Profile automated luminaires were utilized heavily by Lighting Designer Jamie Roderick for the Wisconsin premiere of The Hunchback of Notre Dame by former Styx front man Dennis DeYoung. The musical was staged by Skylight Music Theatre at Milwaukee’s Cabot Theater and featured an impressive production that employed GOBO projections from the Focus Profiles extensively to recreate the atmospheric interior of the famous cathedral.

Based on Victor Hugo’s Gothic novel of the same name, Dennis DeYoung wrote his musical adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in the ‘90s and it debuted in Nashville at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Polk theater in 1996. It was well received by audiences, generated positive reviews, and was set to transfer to Broadway, however illness meant that Dennis was unable to take the project further at the time. The show was first revived in Chicago, when in 2007 it was awarded the Joseph Jefferson Award for best musical. However, Michael Unger, the Artistic Director of Skylight Music Theatre, has wanted to stage the show ever since a chance meeting with DeYoung outside Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre led to Michael being invited to his childhood rock hero’s home studio to be one of the first people to ever hear the entire score of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Michael finally had the opportunity to direct the show he had been “chasing for 28 years” in the summer of 2022 (having been postponed from his inaugural season as Artistic Director in 2020-21 due to the pandemic). Working alongside Dennis, he put together an extravagant production of the show staring Golden Globe and Tony award nominee Kevin Anderson; opera, pop, Broadway and jazz singer Ben Gulley, and Alanis Sophia, who placed 16th in 2021’s Season 19 of ABC’s American Idol.

Lighting equipment for the production was supplied by local vendor Above The Stage Lighting, which was founded by lighting professional Matthew DeYoung in 2008. It specializes in the rental of equipment to small-to-medium-sized theater productions as well as corporate and private events. The company, which already owned ten of ADJ’s Vizi CMY 300 LED-powered hybrid moving head fixtures, had been in the market for a moving head profile fixture for a couple of years. However, since it was a specific requirement of Jamies’s design for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, this production provided the catalyst for Matthew to go ahead with the investment. Together with friend and consultant Justin Litterio, another lighting pro with decades of experience, Matthew carried out research into potential fixture options and as part of this process reached out to ADJ Dealer Windy City Music in Chicago.

“John Flaws and Mike Kathan at Windy City had already checked out all the other options on the market and their recommendation was the Focus Profile, which was brand new at the time,” explains Matthew. “They were so impressed by the fixture that they were also buying them for their own rental stock, which helped us to make our final decision. We try to buy what other companies in town have in their rental inventory, so we know we can get more in by cross renting when we need them. The Focus Profile had everything we were looking for and, having now owned them for almost a year, I can say we have no regrets about our purchasing decision, they have served us very well. Also, when we told Jamie that we would be supplying Focus Profiles for the Hunchback production, he was more than satisfied, saying that he’d already seen them before and loved them.”

The Focus Profile is a feature-packed automated profile luminaire powered by a potent 400W LED light engine that generates an impressive output of 20,000 Lumens. It is the brightest and most feature-rich fixture to date in ADJ’s extremely popular Focus Series. Offering the excellent build quality and value for money for which the range has become known, it is designed for theatrical, concert touring and event production applications and offers a versatile array of creative features. These include four rotating framing shutters with shape rotation, an animation wheel, motorized zoom (beam angle 7 ~ 45-degrees), motorized iris, motorized focus, CMY color mixing and variable CTO color temperature control, an additional color wheel loaded with six dichroic filters, two separate GOBO wheels (one with interchangeable indexed-rotating GOBOs and the other with static metal-stamped GOBOs), a replaceable (medium) frost filter and two independent indexed rotating prisms: 3-facet circular and 6-facet linear.

“It's bright, the focus is sharp, the CMY is smooth, the animation wheel is great, the GOBO textures supplied with the fixture are really good and the framing system works very well,” enthuses Justin about the Focus Profile. “Obviously, on any profile fixture, you have that slight focus offset between the framing shutters and GOBOs, there’s really nothing you can do about that as its purely a matter of physics. But I’ve used many of the industry’s leading profile fixtures and I have to say that the Focus Profile is on a par with, if not slightly better, than all of them in that regard. Every time we’ve put it on a show, everyone involved has loved it. It is a fixture that really does have so much to offer!”

For The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Jamie’s lighting plot distributed the eight Focus Profile fixtures across his rig. Two were positioned Front Of House, to be used as moving specials, while the remaining fixtures were rigged above the stage, spread across the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Electric. These were used extensively throughout the show, primarily to provide texture on the stage through break-up GOBO projections. With plenty of haze on stage, they created the effect of sunlight streaming through stained glass windows, which was essential to the show’s aesthetic.

“The Focus Profile hit all of Jamie’s checkmarks for what he needed from a moving head profile on this production,” explains Matthew. “Based on his experience of using the fixture on the show he told us that it is very responsive; despite having so many features packed into the head, it is still a fast fixture. He was very pleased with the color mixing; it allowed him to achieve pretty much any color he wanted. And he was also pleased with the GOBO selection. From the perspective of a company owning the fixture, you also really can’t argue with the price-point! You get a whole lot for your money; it’s on a par with a lot of the more expensive fixtures on the market. And that that means we can put it out even when a profile isn’t specifically required. There have been a number of productions recently that just required a spotlight but that we gave Focus Profiles and every time they have loved them and requested them specifically next time around. So, it’s also paying dividends for us as a marketing tool for our company! It is becoming our go to fixture and we have plans for future capital expenditure to expand our rental inventory with more of these units very soon!”

Dennis DeYoung’s ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’

Produced By
Skylight Music Theatre

Michael Unger (Skylight Music Theatre Artistic Director)

Lighting Designer
Jamie Roderick

Lighting Vendor
Above The Stage Lighting

ADJ Dealer
Windy City Music

Mark Frohna