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Immersive System Takes Audiences Inside The Outsiders

The classic YA novel The Outsiders has been reimagined as a Broadway musical, delivered via L-ISA technology.

The Outsiders is based on the classic YA novel.
The Outsiders musical is based on the classic YA novel.

New York, NY (June 6, 2024)—S.E. Hinton’s coming-of-age novel, The Outsiders, has been reimagined as a Broadway musical, delivered via L-ISA technology and the first L-Acoustics L Series loudspeaker deployment on the Great White Way.

“People’s expectations of the aural experience in a performance have changed, and I think it’s up to theater artists to stay in front of that,” contends David Strang, vice president, audio sales for PRG, which supplied the L-Acoustics systems for the new production playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in Times Square. “This isn’t a movie that you’ll get to watch at home later—it’s live theater—and this new production of The Outsiders truly draws you into the story.”

The new show is nominated for 12 Tony Awards including best musical and best sound design of a musical for sound designer Cody Spencer.

Like many Broadway houses, the Jacobs Theatre was once a vaudeville venue, designed to project unamplified speech and music. “Acoustics are always a big issue when it comes to Broadway houses, just by their nature, so it definitely was something we spent a lot of time figuring out how to deal with,” says Cody Spencer. L-Acoustics Soundvision design and prediction software was critical in defining the boundaries of coverage, keeping energy away from reflective surfaces and on the audience in every seating area.

The show uses an L-Acoustics L-ISA system.
The show uses an L-Acoustics L-ISA system.

Spencer and his team, including L-ISA programmer Stephen Jensen, production audio lead Mike Tracy and front-of-house engineer Heather Augustine, went all-in on immersive sound and L-ISA technology. “The reason that I chose to use L-ISA is because early on, in communication with my director, music department and choreography team, we wanted the audience to be encompassed by the sound. With much of the show, the audience is ‘inside’ the actors’ heads—it’s a play in which much of the action is being recalled by characters instead of happening in the moment. Using L-ISA, we’re able to get people feeling the sound from all around them at all times. Early on in the show, for instance, our lead character gets kicked in the face, and you can hear the kick, but then you also hear his ears ringing—not just in front of you but all around you. Those kinds of effects help to make you feel like you’re actually part of his world.”

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Two centrally flown sub arrays of three KS21 each are bolstered by two more KS21 positioned left and right, under the stage. The balcony delay system features five Scene arrays of two A15 Focus flanking Extension arrays of two A15 Wide. Seven spatialized X8 mounted across the face of the stage serve as front-fills for main-floor seats, and various combinations of X12, X8, and 5XT are deployed as other fills, as needed. A combination of LA7.16, LA12X, and LA4X amplified controllers drive the system.

“We also have a row of compact 5XT speakers for the middle of the orchestra that helps get the high end to the very front of the overhang,” Spencer says, “and then another row of X8 as spatial fills to fill in the back of the orchestra underneath the overhang.” The main system’s surround arrays utilize a combination of X8 and A10 enclosures, while the balcony surrounds are four Syva, deployed two per side, he adds.