Before showtime!

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By 2018-02-11

Dilshani Palugaswewa
Ceylon Today Features

There is only a week left, on the countdown for those of you impatiently waiting to rush in and take your seats for the Broadway musical, The Sound of Music, featuring iconic characters of the von Trapp family.Here for you, is a sneak peek of the venue that will delight you with the enormous production.

For the first time in Sri Lanka, Broadway shows are coming to our doorstep with some of the greatest theatrical productions made possible by Cinnamon Life and the Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapakse Theatre.

Nelum Pokuna which is also known as the Lotus Pond, will be hosting its first foreign stage mega musical in a series of other upcoming stage productions. They are delighted to finally utilize their hippodrome for what it was initially built for – theatrical productions. And thus, they are extremely excited to facilitate the international cast and crew who promise to present epic performances to Sri Lankan audiences.

In conversation with a few key people behind the scenes, they expounded on the amount of preparation that goes into a single production on this scale.
The theatre venue which was completed in 2011, was funded by the Chinese Government and is run and maintained by 120 staff members of the Sri Lankan security forces, from the army, navy and air force, falling under the purview of the Sri Lankan Government.

The venue, since its inception, has been a prominent choice for local and international events which have effortlessly managed to annually enthral mammoth crowds, exceeding 200 shows per year.
There are also new plans in place for the theatre, with the second term Technical Corporation Agreement due to be signed in the near future, which is a grant worth Rs 14 million and is to upgrade the sound and light systems and bring in additional facilities for its maintenance.

Speaking on the seating capacity of the multi-theatre venue, Brigadier SudanthaThilakarathne stated that the main theatre which will be hosting the upcoming musical production can hold 1,469 seats, while the amphitheatre can hold 900 seats and the open-air theatre can accommode 4,000 people.

In comparison to other available venues that Sri Lanka has to offer, the hiring of Nelum Pokuna is not preposterous like it has been reported in the past, considering the facilities the venue is equipped with, reasoned Brigadier Thilakarathne. "We have 550 street lights along with sound and light systems that we provide with the hiring of the venue. So, when all of that is calculated the price tag is not unreasonable... Everything comes as a full package with no hidden costs." Additionally, he pointed out that art doesn't come cheap. Good quality products are reasonably pricier, and this should be widely understood by Sri Lankan audiences.

Explaining how the venue was finalized they said that during the preliminary stages of planning that Broadway Asia carried out with Cinnamon Life, the Stage Automation Engineers for this musical production flew into the island in search of the perfect venue in terms of facilities for their stage requirements.What heavily influenced the finalization of the venue were factors such as stage set up, moving stage flexibility and numerous fly busses which enabled set changes. "I think the sound system at Nelum Pokuna is the most advanced theatre system that Sri Lanka has today" said Chief Engineer Commander Almeida speaking on the possible reason that their venue was selected for The Sound of Music stage production.

"This structure has the flexibility to cater to various kinds of theatrical production" he continued. He further noted that since Nelum Pokuna was designed for such large scale productions, there are just a few specific additions in progress, to complete stage requirements for the props and sets which will unload from 10 containers, weighing approximately 16 tonnes in total (including extensive sounds and lighting).


In the hope of eradicating any fear that the public would have with regards to the seating arrangements and purchasing of tickets for the musical, Cinnamon Life and Nelum Pokuna assured that all seats have been painstakingly analyzed before valuing it at the price each one has been priced at.The seats with limited view or the ones positioned near loud speakers are being sold at lower prices, which the purchaser is informed about beforehand. However, according to Cinnamon Life, some seats have been completely wiped out due to restricted stage viewing and other contributing factors.

In terms of publicity Nelum Pokuna will receive subsequent to the opening of the musical, they are extremely delighted to be listed as a venue on the calendar of this massive international project."We hope from this year onwards we will get at least two or three foreign productions which are on their World Tour and will make Nelum Pokuna one of their destinations," Chief Engineer Commander Almeida said. For this theatre production taking stage next week, bookings have been made from India, Singapore and a few other countries, which would not only make profits for ticket sales but also tourism in the country. Nelum Pokuna is now put on the map and that is a privilege they implied.

For the preparation of this production, the time it will take for the setting up of the entire set, is said to be five days, including the load-in time of the multiple containers, rigging, lights, technical runs and rehearsals in time for the curtain calls. There are roughly seven set locations which will be alternating between different layers and several props. The show will be operating with the use of 30 of the fly bars at the venue. In addition, rigs into the structural roof are to add five more rows of lighting and set props.

For theatre-goers looking for a sneak peek, there are a couple of things you might want to keep an eye out for when you take your seat before one of your "favourite things." In terms of technicality and props, the iconic "Set" which is a seven tonne auto truss that rigs straight on to the roof, is definitely one to look out for because the mechanics of it, enables the walls and doors of the house and the church to move vertically and rotate. Furthermore, theatre-goers are advised to pay close attention to the precision and range of lighting which are being used to bring the sets to life!

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