Loudspeaker World

Meyer Sound Reinforces Tony-Winning Broadway Productions

LEOPARD, LYON, and LINA line arrays deployed for Hadestown, Ain't Too Proud — The Life and Times of The Temptations and Joe Iconis’ Be More Chill.

By PSW Staff June 11, 2019

Amber Gray and the Broadway cast of Hadestown (Credit: Matthew Murphy)

Meyer Sound systems continue to power celebrated productions on Broadway, with Tony-winning shows relying on LEOPARD, LYON, and LINA systems to deliver the sonic experiences.

Hadestown swept the awards, taking home eight trophies including “Best Musical” and making history as the first production written and directed by women. Realizing creator Anaïs Mitchell’s vision — an inventive musical retelling of the classic Greek myth of Orpheus and his doomed lover, Eurydice — began with ensuring a consistent experience for everyone in the audience, says sound designer Jessica Paz, who accepted the Tony Award for “Best Sound Design of a Musical” along with fellow sound designer Nevin Steinberg. Paz also made history this year by being the first woman to be nominated in this category.

“It’s important to deliver the same experience to every seat in the house,” says Paz. “We work in imperfect spaces so that isn’t always possible, but of course we strive to get there — which has a lot to do with speaker choice, speaker placement.”

“The LEOPARD is probably my favorite speaker of all time,” she adds. “As a line array, I find that the LEOPARD is just incredible. The cancellation in the rear, and what it doesn’t throw back on the stage, is really helpful. And the control.”

Hadestown first took advantage of a LEOPARD system last fall at London’s National Theatre, which had just installed a permanent Meyer Sound system (supplied by London-based Autograph). “The audio team said, ‘we’re so excited about this new PA; we want to make sure we put it in for you for Hadestown,'” says Paz. “We had LEOPARD arrays there; we had a LINA center cluster.”

When the production moved to the Walter Kerr Theater, the team brought in another Meyer Sound system, spec’ing LEOPARD, UPQ, UPJunior, and UPJ loudspeakers, managed by Galileo GALAXY processors. Paz says she’s thrilled to continue the sonic journey with Meyer Sound: “It just seemed like the right choice to bring that to Broadway.”

Meanwhile, Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of The Temptations, which chronicles the legendary group’s journey from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, took home the Tony for “Best Choreography.”

(L-R) Christian Thompson (Smokey Robinson), Ephraim Sykes (David Ruffin), Jared Joseph (Melvin Franklin), Derrick Baskin (Otis Williams), Jeremy Pope (Eddie Kendricks), and James Harkness (Paul Williams) in the world premiere of Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of The Temptations at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. (Creadit: Carole Litwin/Berkeley Repertory Theatre)

This tribute to some of R&B’s most iconic songs was driven in large part by the work of orchestrator Harold Wheeler who took home the special Tony for “Lifetime Achievement in the Theater” and sound designers Steve Canyon Kennedy and Walter Trarbach, who were co-nominated for “Best Sound Design of a Musical.”

“A large degree of the work of staying true to these songs falls to Harold Wheeler, who is a genius,” Trarbach explains. “But we often reference the original recordings while mixing the show and setting internal band levels.”

Trarbach says modern technology allowed the team to transcend limitations of the music’s original vinyl recording formats. “When these records were cut, the low-frequency bass energy would physically take up more room on the records, so a lot of these songs were mixed with less low end,” he explains. “One thing we do in this production is bring that more into the mix.”

Delivering that rich sonic experience to every seat in the house is made possible with a sound system that’s been largely powered by Meyer Sound, from the show’s beginnings in Berkeley, Calif. through touring productions, to its current run on Broadway.

“Originally it was a LEOPARD system at Berkeley Rep,” says Trarbach. “When we went on the road, the main PA was all LEOPARDs: We did lower arrays for the orchestra, higher arrays for the balcony, and we hung a big center cluster.” Sound Associates supplied every incarnation of the system.

“Coming back to Broadway, in a modest-sized theater, it’s nice to recapture that sense of intimacy and have the ability to not have to push the sound so far to get to the people,” he says. The current system at the Imperial Theatre includes Meyer Sound LEOPARD arrays, 900-LFC and 600-HP compact high-power subwoofers, and UPA and UPJunior sidefills, processed with Galileo.

“The LEOPARD is a very clean speaker,” Trarbach concludes. “And it has a lot of low end, and we can use it to provide a consistent sound throughout the house. That’s the real upside.”

Joe Iconis’ Be More Chill, a musical ode to teen angst, was nominated for “Best Original Score.” Sound designer Ryan Rumery shaped the show’s rock-inspired “wall of sound,” mixing voices over complex orchestration that included guitars, theremin, vocoder, and hundreds of synth patches, for maximum impact in every seat of the Lyceum Theater. “I wanted to make sure that all of the lyrics were intelligible,” says Rumery. “I kept thinking, if we can really understand the lyrics and we can get them sounding great in the system, I’ll be able to have the band at a higher level.”

The Cast of Be More Chill (Credit and copyright: Maria Baranova)

He’s able to achieve those goals with a Meyer Sound system, which includes LEOPARD main left/right arrays, a center cluster of LINA loudspeakers, UP-4slim frontfills, UPM-1P underbalcony loudspeakers, UPA-1P downfills, 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements, and 700-HP subwoofers.

To create low-end punch, Rumery placed subs under the audience in old air chiller chambers, relics of the days before modern air conditioning. “To have that low end below the audience, for them to really feel it, was a fun thing to do,” he says. “Those subs were super impactful.”

The PA, provided by Masque Sound, is managed with GALAXY 816 processors, which gave Rumery the flexibility to fine-tune the system during previews: “Galileo and GALAXY, they save me so much,” says Rumery. “You can really make real-time adjustments.”

“The thing that’s great about Meyer speakers is, there’s always great clarity in them,” Rumery concludes. “The whole new line of subs, like the 750-LFCs, 900-LFCs, and the 1100-LFCs — they’re just really lifesavers for me.”

Top-grossing Broadway productions deploying Meyer Sound systems include King Kong, Frozen, Beetlejuice, The Phantom of the Opera, Dear Evan Hansen, The Band’s Visit, and perennial favorite Wicked, now in its 16th year. Meyer Sound will power Alex Timbers’ upcoming stage adaption of Moulin Rouge, opening in late June at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.

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