Custom Audio Solution Helps Nathan Lane Make Glorious Return
In Hilarious and Heartbreaking Play
NEW YORK, JUNE 4, 2013—When Sound Designer Leon Rothenberg was tasked with reproducing the post-vaudeville burlesque scene of the 1930s for the new Broadway play, The Nance, he turned to Masque Sound, a leading theatrical sound reinforcement, installation and design company, to provide an audio solution capable of transporting the audience back to this wild time.
Lincoln Center Theater’s production of Douglas Carter Beane’s The Nance, playing at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway, brings to life the naughty, raucous world of burlesque’s heyday with the backstage story of Chauncey Miles and his fellow performers. At a time when it was easy to play gay but dangerous to actually be gay, Chauncey’s uproarious antics on the stage stand out in marked contrast to his offstage life. Directed by three-time Tony Award-winner Jack O’Brien, The Nance welcomes two-time Tony Award-winner Nathan Lane back to Broadway as Chauncey.
For The Nance, Rothenberg’s goal in working with Masque Sound was to make the play’s setting as authentic as possible. “The sound design was not going to be standard by today’s blueprint,” says Rothenberg. “In the 1930s, there would have been no help from a sound system. There was a band in the pit, and if the performer wanted to be heard, it was all on them. They sang, performed musical numbers and sketches and told jokes, and they just had to be loud. Trying to recreate that feeling without being visibly intrusive and still making sure that everything got heard was a complex challenge. Fortunately, my team, including Danny Erdberg, assistant sound designer, Liz Coleman, assistant audio engineer, Marc Salzberg, production sound engineer and I, were able to work with Masque Sound to come up with a great sound solution.”
By strategically placing boundary and foot microphones, provided by Masque Sound, within the framework of the set and at the front of the stage, Rothenberg’s design was able to pick up the actors successfully and provide that authentic feel he sought.
“After the sound system is designed and tuned, it’s all about the mix,” adds Rothenberg. “It is a very specific and rigorous show to mix in that every moment has to be very tightly controlled. We want to get the most out of the band, and the most out of the singing and the music without sacrificing clarity or the story. Marc Salzberg has a great sense of mixing this way, a great sense of this kind of specificity and how to maintain natural transparent sound. He was great to have on the show and did a phenomenal job.”
Another unique aspect of the sound design for Rothenberg was The Nance’s use of a turntable stage. “There are moments when the band has to sound like it is in the pit and others where the music needs to ‘move’ with the turntable to give the audience the impression of being backstage,” says Rothenberg. “From a sound point of view, these are two very different feelings we seek for the audience to experience, making it an interesting challenge. The band is actually down the hall backstage, but heard through speakers where the pit would be. Then we simulate the sound of a stage house from onstage, with installed speakers up the entire stage right side wall. Masque Sound had the gear I was looking for and the final result gave us just the effect we wanted. It turned out great.”
Masque Sound provided an equipment package that included the Avid VENUE profile console, which delivers studio-grade sound, powerful performance and complete ease of use, with maximum flexibility and power in a smaller footprint. In addition, Masque Sound provided Yamaha DME64 Digital Mixing Engines, which employ Yamaha’s original DSP6 and DSP7 signal-processing LSIs for extraordinary audio processing power and quality. A d&b speaker system complemented by two Meyer USW-1P subwoofers, and DPA Microphones were paired with Rothenberg’s design.
Rothenberg also credits the success of the show to the theater itself. “The Lyceum is the oldest theater on Broadway and the acoustics and feeling of intimacy in that theater are just fantastic,” he adds. “It might have been hard to pull off what we did in a different venue. The Lyceum is both visually stunning and sonically generous and thanks to Masque Sound’s first class support, we produced a first-class show.”
The Nance recently received five Tony Award nominations, including “Best Sound Design of a Play” for Leon Rothenberg. It is currently running on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre.