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Live Sound

Tackling RF on Double-Decker Shows

Handling RF for two musicals in two theaters stacked atop each other was no song and dance for sound designer Peter McBoyle.

Toronto, Canada (December 18, 2017)—When it comes to cinemas, multi-story venues where theaters are stacked atop each other are a common thing, but they’re far less common in the world of live theater. That makes Toronto’s Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre one of those rare exceptions; the Elgin, completed in 1914, seats 1,500, while the Winter Garden above it accommodates nearly 1,000 patrons. Of course, when they were built, wireless microphones didn’t exist, but a century later, RF and the theaters’ proximity to each other were key concerns for sound designer Peter McBoyle, who designed audio for simultaneous productions of Grease and A Christmas Carol in the two venues.

For both productions, McBoyle used Lectrosonics digital hybrid wireless equipment, with Grease was captured with 24 SSM micro beltpack transmitters and Venue receivers in the upstairs Winter Garden theater, while downstairs at the Elgin, a dozen SSM micro beltpack transmitters and Venue receivers nabbed A Christmas Carol.

New York-based Sound Associates, which has an office near downtown Toronto, supplied the Lectrosonics transmitters and receivers for both shows, handling frequency coordination for the two venues.

For Grease, McBoyle deployed SSM super slight micro transmitters on the production paired with DPA Microphones’ d:screet 4061 omni lavalier mics. “The three principals [Sandy, Danny and Rizzo] are double-packed,” said McBoyle. “The body packs have to be hidden under their costumes in various locations. The small size of the SSM pack certainly helps us to conceal them.”

Broadway choreographer and director Josh Prince’s staging included energetic and exciting choreography, and McBoyle confirmed, “the mics and mic packs take a real beating with sweat and physicality, but the Lectrosonics SSMs have held up very, very well.”

Downstairs in the Elgin, McBoyle used the SSM transmitters and Venue receivers with DPA 4061 mic elements, on A Christmas Carol. “Most of the principals in the cast of 14 are on SSMs and the five lead characters are double-packed,” he said. “We also have a musician onstage who plays guitar and uses an SSM. It’s nice and easy to get instruments working with SSM packs; they integrate really easily.

“Because I’m doing both shows we were able to do the frequency coordination well in advance,” says McBoyle. “The theaters are right on top of each other so there’s no margin for error, but everything has been very stable”