Elegant Accoutrements & World Class Acoustics Set Stage For Classic Performance
NEW YORK: 54 BELOW, Broadway’s nightclub, is the new performance venue in the grand tradition of New York City nightlife. A few blocks from the heart of Times Square and just below the legendary Studio 54, 54 BELOW is a classically designed state-of-the art nightclub in the theatre district that hosts audiences with warmth and style.
In their description of 54 BELOW, The New York Times writes “the club has the intimacy of a large living room with unimpeded views and impeccable sound; there is not a bad seat. The atmosphere is warmer and sexier than in Manhattan’s other major supper clubs.” The New York Post calls the venue “a gorgeous new cabaret space. With its heavy lineup of moonlighting Broadway stars, 54 BELOW has the congenial feel of a theater hangout where stars go to unwind and sing the songs that really matter to them. It’s a pleasure to share their joy.”
Designed by Tony Award-winner John Lee Beatty and architect Richard Lewis, lit by Tony Award-winner Ken Billington, sound by Tony Award-nominee Peter Hylenski, and acoustic design by the Walters-Storyk Design Group, 54 BELOW features an intimate, in-your-living-room relationship between its performers and audiences. Tony Award-winner Scott Wittman serves as Creative Consultant and MAC Award-winner Phil Geoffrey Bond serves as director of Programming, Andre J. Marrero is Executive Chef.
To address the all-important acoustic issues, two top-drawer firms collaborated on the live sound and audio recording systems. Sound designer Peter Hylenski has worked on such hit shows as “The Scottsboro Boys,” “Rock Of Ages” and “Ragtime.” The Walters-Storyk Design Group has contributed their acoustic design expertise to projects ranging from Jazz At Lincoln Center to, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, and Le Poisson Rouge.
WSDG project manager Joshua Morris reports, “Our first assignment was to perform a comprehensive consultation of isolation issues and internal room acoustics. 54 Below is a relatively small club, designed for audiences of 160 persons, max. At just under 2000 sq. ft., the space is situated directly below a busy commercial lobby, and sandwiched between two of Manhattan’s busiest subway corridors. The ceiling, already relatively low in this basement space, needed to be covered by a new dropped ceiling to conceal extensive air conditioning ductwork, waste and water pipes and wiring troughs.”
The findings of this critical testing program were generally positive and attested to the management group’s clear thinking on the site selection. “In reviewing our findings with Peter Hylenski, aside from a few anomalies which we immediately addressed, we agreed the ambient level of 54 BELOW was acceptably quiet,” Morris says. “Everyone was pleased to learn that very little additional isolation was necessary to allay concerns about the subway lines’ low frequency noise transmissions and physical rumble. Our recommendation was that the audience would accept moderate acoustic leakage as part of the “charm” of the NYC club-going experience, along with the murmur of a working bar and kitchen. We did, however, stipulate that a ‘high-pass filter’ be used on the microphones in critical recording situations.”
Other acoustic recommendations included additional layers of gypsum board on the ceiling. Partitions were recommended for areas adjoining kitchen, bathroom, lobby and electrical equipment closets. Acoustic door seals were stipulated to aid in isolating sound leaks. WSDG’s primary goal was to create a balanced reverberation time within the limits associated with club use and industry standards while intelligently addressing issues of noise.
Joshua Morris and WSDG principal architect/acoustician John Storyk worked closely with sound designer Peter Hylenski to develop and implement the cutting edge, sound system. “Peter’s theatrical background was invaluable in helping us shape this room into an effective performance/recording environment,” John Storyk says. We established an extremely effective collaborative synergy, and in the process we developed some interesting acoustic treatments for 54 BELOW.”
Among these innovations are custom diffusion panels covered with stretched fabric and mounted in filigreed frames that enhance the room’s aesthetics while simultaneously ‘tuning’ the space for maximum listening clarity and warmth. The team also contributed to the design of custom banquet seats, which incorporate low frequency treatments enabling them to serve as acoustic absorption elements. “No one will ever know they’re sitting on room tuning devices instead of traditional seats,” Storyk says, “But they’d hear the difference if we hadn’t paid close attention to the details.”
Photos: 54 BELOW, NY’s newest cabaret. Photos by by Marc Bryan-Brown, courtesy of 54 Below.
54 BELOW is owned and operated by Tony Award-winning producers Tom Viertel, Marc Routh, Richard Frankel, and Steven Baruch. 54 BELOW features up to three shows nightly and has audio recording capabilities. Cover charges range from $5-$95.
54 BELOW is located at 254 West 54th Street. Tickets and information are available at www.54Below.com.
On Sunday, Oct. 28, 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM, John Storyk will discuss his work on 54 BELOW and, such other WSDG projects as: Le Poisson Rouge, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola (Jazz At Lincoln Center), The Rockwood Music Hall and the just completed Fenix Club in San Rafael, CA in a special Presentation entitled “Acoustics For Small Live Sound Venues – Creating (& Fine Tuning) The Consumate Performing/Listening Environment” as part of the 133rd AES Convention’s Live Sound Track at SF’s Moscone Center.
Walters-Storyk Design Group has designed over 3000 media production facilities in the U.S., Europe, the Far East and Latin America. WSDG credits range from the original Jimi Hendrix Electric Lady Studio in Greenwich Village to NYC’s Jazz At Lincoln Center performance complex, broadcast facilities for The Food Network, CBS and WNET, over twenty teaching studios for The Art Institutes around the US, and corporate clients such as Hoffman La Roche. Recent credits include Jungle City, NY’s major new destination studio; private studios for Green Day, Jay-Z, Timbaland’s Tim Mosley, film composer Carter Burwell, Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen and Alicia Keys. WSDG principals John Storyk, Beth Walters, and Dirk Noy lecture frequently at universities and industry events, and contribute regularly to industry publications. WSDG is a seven-time winner of the prestigious TEC Award for outstanding achievement in Acoustics/Facility Design, including 2012 for Jungle City. WSDG maintains offices in NY, SF, Miami, Argentina, Brazil, Beijing, Germany, Mexico City, Spain and Switzerland.