Norwest Productions provides sound for South Pacific
AUSTRALIA: Norwest Productions was recently selected to provide a sound system for Rodgers & Hammerstein musical South Pacific, the first Lincoln Center theatre production to ever tour the country.
Sound designer Scott Lehrer was a recipient of one of seven Tony Awards bestowed on the production in 2008, and as such Norwest Productions needed to deliver a fitting sound solution for the tour.
Norwest’s Adrian Riddell was appointed associate sound designer, tasked with translating Mr Lehrer’s design to the Australian production. Mr Lehrer previously stated that he strives to use technology to make an audience perceive the sound as naturally as possible when compared to other musicals. ‘I always thought it should be done as quietly as possible, to keep the focus on the storytelling,’ he said. ‘It's the difference between the audience being pushed back by the sound and being drawn in.’
‘Scott never wanted a fully amplified sound but rather a reinforcement of the acoustic sound of both the principle actors, chorus and orchestra,’ added Mr Riddell.
The PA system comprises a number of d&b audiotechnik and EAW boxes driven by d&b and Crown amplifiers, with d&b C7 speakers making up the centre cluster. ‘These are my favourite speakers to use,’ Mr Lehrer said. ‘They're incredibly neutral, beautiful-sounding speakers.’ He also chose d&b Q-Series amplifiers for left/right and main delay systems.
‘For the scene with the Folies stage at the beginning of Act II we decided to put a couple of Altec Lansing 511B spectral horns on top of the stage,’ furthered Mr Riddell. ‘That meant that when the lead actor was talking it sounded like she was coming through a really old PA. Rather than using a digital effect, we actually sourced a really old PA to get that sound. Unfortunately those particular horns are really rare, but we eventually found some in a friend’s garage in New Zealand!’
Meanwhile, the actors all use headworn DPA 4061 lavalier microphones with Shure transmitters and receivers. When singer Lisa McCune, who plays Nelly, sings ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair’, a Countryman B3 water-resistant microphone is deployed.
‘Countryman makes a lavalier that is very water repellent, so we have two transmitters on her, both with Countryman lavaliers,’ said Mr Lehrer. ‘At least one of them generally works when she comes out of the shower scene. Mr Lehrer also double-mikes the character of Emile, an operatic baritone, with a second lavalier on his chest to capture bass frequencies.
As the actors move across the stage, a sound processor changes the delay times in the loudspeaker system to give the feeling of movement. ‘There are four separate vocal zones on stage so wherever the main speaking is happening at a particular time we route the audio into that particular zone which changes the delay times into the speakers,’ explained Mr Riddell. ‘Wherever you’re sitting the delay time will change to give you the perception of the sound coming from that particular area. It’s quite a different technique which we’ve never done before but it works well.’
The tour is being mixed by engineer John Watterson on a DiGiCo D5T with two of Qlab replay machines, a Big Ben Master Word Clock and a TC 6000 reverb.