First opened in 1928, the Capitol Theater is the oldest and second largest venue in Madison, Wisconsin’s Overture Center for the Arts complex, which today encompasses seven performance facilities and four art galleries.
Despite undergoing a major renovation project eight years ago that halved the historic vaudeville house’s capacity to approximately 1,100 seats, the Capitol’s sound reinforcement system hadn’t been updated for nearly two decades, prompting the recent installation of a new L-Acoustics amplifier and loudspeaker package.
The new design is comprised of 10 KARA enclosures per side, each complemented by an additional hang of six SB15m subs creating a compact and lightweight flown 3-way system. The KARA arrays are covering both balcony and orchestra level seating areas thus eliminating the need for underbalcony loudspeakers.
Following a directive from the venue’s primary benefactor that no loudspeakers be visible, arrays are housed in towering boxed frames on the far sides of the stage and hidden behind acoustically transparent scrims.
For foldback, a dozen coaxial 12XT wedges can be positioned onstage as needed, with four more 12XT on hand for deck-fill use. A front fill system of six tiny 5XT is inset into the front of the stage lip, while two SB28 subs per side are located below to supply augmented low-frequency impact. Eleven LA8 amplified controllers monitor, process and drive both the FOH and monitoring systems.
Clearwing Productions of Milwaukee supplied all of the gear, which was installed by the theater’s own seasoned audio production team.
“The Capitol Theater hosts nearly 250 performances a year, and those productions span quite a variety—everything from theatre to rock, classical and opera concerts—so we needed a system that could be very versatile,” explains Capitol Theater technician Brian Anderson. “After inviting five of what we considered to be the most production rider-friendly manufacturers to individually come in and demo their most appropriate systems here in the space, we unanimously chose to install KARA.”
“Since the system went in this past August, we’ve done a bunch of shows and we’re thrilled beyond belief,” he adds. “What I particularly love is that I can sit in the far corner of the upper balcony’s very last row and I don’t feel that I’m getting a different representation from when I’m sitting front and center. The evenness of coverage is spectacular; much better than I would have thought possible. And the system’s detail, articulation and clarity are frighteningly good. It’s very honest, revealing every little nuance of both a performance and mix.”
Although the new audio system is largely invisible to patrons, Anderson notes that the dramatic sonic improvement has been clearly noticed by all. “One of the very first groups to use our KARA rig was the Indigo Girls, who have performed here literally dozens of times over the years. I can honestly say that we’ve never had so many people come up to us after a show and tell us that it was the best sounding concert they had ever heard.”