Amplifying My Fair Lady
AUSTRALIA: Having recently played at the Sydney Opera House and celebrating the 60th anniversary of its original Broadway production, My Fair Lady is touring Australia with upcoming performances in Brisbane, Melbourne and at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre. The production organisers, GFO and Opera Australia, brought in Dame Julie Andrews, the original Eliza Doolittle from the 1956 Broadway version, to direct the musical. With such a prestigious director onboard, renowned Australian audio director Michael Waters was engaged to deliver the sound system design.
While the sets, costumes and lighting are all based on those used during the 1956 production, Mr Waters opted bring the audio solution more in line with modern standards, seeking the assistance of JPJ Audio. ‘We did see the original audio spec for the 1956 production which was only one page,’ recalled the audio director. ‘The sound pre-show check was “turn on an amplifier, have the reel to reel wound back to such a counter point and then press play at this time”. That was it!’
For this production, the main PA setup comprised a combination of L-Acoustics’ Kiva cabinets for the centre cluster, complemented by SB18 subwoofers. The compact 5XT was employed for surrounds and delays, while Meyer Sound MSL-2 speakers were utilised for the dress circle and proscenium. UPM-2 reinforcement loudspeakers were deployed for front-fill. ‘I chose the UPM-2 speakers for their narrow 45-degree dispersion as the orchestra are not used to sitting in front of speakers,’ explained Mr Waters. ‘As the UPM-2s are directional, they fire over their heads.’
Capturing the voices of the cast onstage are DPA Microphones 4061 miniature omnidirectional mics, connected via Shure UR1M micro-bodypack transmitters.
Mr Waters put together his design in such a way as to pay homage to the original audio solution, while providing the audience with the type of coverage that they are used to in the 21st century – surround sound. He noted: ‘I was able to occasionally produce some soundscapes throughout the show. It’s not a sound effect heavy show but it does have its moments where you can have some fun.
‘It’s such a funny piece with lots of comedic lines in the show and when the audience erupts into laughter, it would be easy to miss the subsequent dialogue,’ Mr Waters continued. ‘Being amplified we could push over the sound of the laughter and that also encourages the audience to keep laughing without fearing they’ll miss the next line.
‘I think we kept true to the intent of the show,’ he concluded. ‘It wasn’t over-amplified, it was just enough for every audience member to hear it clearly all the way to the gods at the back of the circle, and make the orchestra sound dynamic throughout the theatre.’