NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 14, 2016 — When Cirque du SoleilParamour, the organization’s first show created expressly for Broadway, took flight at the Lyric Theatre on May 25, Sound Designer John Shiver and Associate Sound Designer David Patridge were putting the finishing touches on a custom audio equipment package provided by Masque Sound for Cirque du Soleil’s first musical.
Cirque du Soleil marks its Broadway debut with a glamorous tale of the quest for fame in the Golden Age of Hollywood. This groundbreaking event transports you to a sublime world of emotion and awe as it walks the exhilarating tightrope of the heart.
In designing the sound for Paramour, the duo wanted to ensure the audio was evenly distributed while maintaining its transparency. “The principles of sound design are the same regardless if you are doing something super simple or very complicated,” says Patridge. “We want to provide every seat in the house with a clearly audible sonic experience. One of the luxuries on Paramour was that we had the band for almost six weeks with the cast on stage. This is very unusual, as typically we get the orchestra at the last minute and for a very short time before going into performances. This allowed us to really get things dialed in and we were able to achieve what we set out to do.”
The biggest challenge faced by the designers was the acoustics of the venue itself. “The Lyric Theatre is one of Broadway’s largest houses with more than 1700 seats,” adds Patridge. “The theatre has been beautifully renovated but did have some acoustical hindrances. There are many surfaces of flat reflective plaster in the theatre that are not ornamental, which makes the sound coming out of the speakers bounce around on the walls and ceiling. This is where we found difficulty in balancing intelligibility while also making sure we had enough fill speakers to overcome the reflective energy. I think in the end we managed to meet the challenge and every seat in the theatre has good sound.”
With the theatre’s acoustical obstacles, speaker selection was critical. The team relied on Masque Sound to provide a custom PA system from Czech Republic-based, KV2 Audio. According to Patridge, “We went in a new direction with our speaker selection for Paramour by using KV2 Audio speakers. We were exposed to them when we did a show in Germany a few years ago and really liked the sound. They make point source speakers as opposed to line arrays. They are large and therefore have a lot of low-frequency information in addition to detailed high’s and mid-ranges; they sound like a high-fidelity speaker. We asked Masque Sound to make a large purchase of KV2 equipment for this show and we were very happy they obliged. We have a variety of KV2 boxes in the show including most of the main PA, surrounds, delays and fills. They are a newcomer to Broadway and the sound is incredible.”
For the console, Masque Sound provided the designers with the tried-and-true Broadway main staple, DiGiCo SD7 with theatre software and Waves audio plug-ins. Another interesting component to the custom audio package was the use of Lectrosonics SSM Micro Belt Pack Digital Hybrid Wireless audio for compandor-free digital quality. “The form factor of the SSM is really excellent for theatre work,” says Patridge. “It fits very well under a costume or wig without feeling bulky and is quite a bit smaller than what we have been using. It sounds really good and has great battery life. We paired those with Lectrosonics Venue 2 six-channel single rack receivers.”
The designers also used Clear-Com’s HelixNet intercom system for the first time. The system is one of the larger, if not the largest on Broadway. It’s fairly new to the Broadway market and allows for multiple channelization over a single XLR. It does a lot of things that traditional partyline intercoms don’t do without going into digital intercom, which can be a more complicated and expensive set up.
“In addition to the HelixNet system, we also utilized Clear-Com’s FreeSpeak II digital wireless intercom system,” adds Patridge. “It uses Wi-Fi type frequencies and operates in a different manner then we have been using, which is the standard UHF type Telex wireless intercom. It was not entirely risky because we had good reports before we put it on the show. There was a small learning curve, but we managed to push it to its limits. We used 16-20 wireless intercoms and it ended up working really well; everyone is very happy with it. The Clear-Com products are new to Masque Sound as well and they were very interested in following the set up and learning from it. Masque Sound treated us very well and provided lots of support.”
Rounding out the sound package was a selection of microphones including DPA d:screet 4061s for the cast, and DPA d:dicate 4011s and Neumann TLM 102s for the orchestra. Paramour also marks the first time the designers have ever had to put a wireless microphone in a vacuum cleaner.
“Scott Kalata at Masque Sound continues to be a go-to person for us,” adds Patridge. “He brings it all together in a big picture sense and we certainly call upon all of Masque Sound’s technical expertise when putting the show together. We love working with Masque Sound. In addition, our Second Engineer Lucas Indelicato and longtime Production Engineer Kevin Kennedy both did an incredible job as did John Gibson, head of sound at the Lyric Theatre. John has been a pleasure to work with and turned out to be a vital asset to us. Thanks to this wonderful collaboration, Paramour looks and sounds great.”
Paramour is currently playing at The Lyric Theatre (214 W. 43rd Street, New York, NY). For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.cirquedusoleil.com/paramour.
About Masque Sound
Founded in 1936 by a trio of Broadway stagehands, Masque Sound evolved into one of NYC’s most successful theatrical sound reinforcement, installation and design companies specializing in theatrical, house of worship, sporting, corporate, TV broadcast and live concert events. Celebrating more than 75 years in the industry, the company is led by Vice President Geoff Shearing. The company also operates Florida-based Professional Wireless Systems, a leader in the development and implementation of wireless technology. Credits range from major Broadway shows and tours including Phantom of the Opera, MAMMA MIA!, Lion King, Jersey Boys, The Book of Mormon, Once, Kinky Boots, Aladdin and Fun Home to yearly Super Bowl broadcasts and installations of varying sizes, including Western Connecticut State University, the Jim Wise Theatre at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and the historic St. Patrick's Cathedral. Masque Sound’s 70,000 sq. ft. corporate headquarters and main assembly facility is located at 21 East Union Ave., East Rutherford, NJ, 20 minutes from midtown Manhattan. For more information, call (201) 939-8666 or visit www.MasqueSound.com.