KARA system installed at Kansas City’s famed outdoor theatrical venue
KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Seating nearly 8,000 patrons, Starlight Theatre has been a staple of Kansas City’s performing arts community since it first opened in 1950. Hosting a full calendar of Broadway plays and musicals each summer season – not to mention numerous concerts, corporate events, weddings and fundraisers – many classic productions have trod the boards of the large open-air venue over the years, including Jesus Christ Superstar, Oliver!, Hair, Camelot, Sweet Charity and West Side Story.
As to be expected, Starlight, which is operated by the not-for-profit Starlight Theatre Association, has been through a few sound systems in its time, with the last one holding out for the past 14 seasons. But none of them have ever been able to deliver the critical combination of the intelligibility needed for theatrical dialog with the full-range frequency response necessary for music. Until this year, that is. A new L-ACOUSTICS KARA Modular WST line source sound system was installed over the winter and is already taking Starlight’s 2014 season to new heights.
The new L-ACOUSTICS house system, designed by Dallas-based Idibri (formerly Acoustic Dimensions) and installed by Clair Brothers Audio Systems’ Nashville office, consists of a total of 48 KARA line array modules divided into three hangs of 16 each, positioned left, center and right along a steel framework above the proscenium stage. Flanking either side of the center hang and the outside of the left and right arrays are flown arrays of six SB18 subwoofers accompanied by eight ground-stacked SB28 subwoofers split between the left and right sides of the stage floor. Proscenium fills are handled by two ARCS WIDE and two ARCS FOCUS, one each per side, while six tiny 5XT coaxial loudspeakers and three larger 8XT enclosures comprise the front-fill complement. A total of 16 LA8 amplified controllers power the entire system.
“We put a lot of effort into choosing the new sound system,” states Justin White, Starlight Theatre Director of Operations and Theater Plant, noting the winnowing process began with five systems that Idibri Project Manager Ryan Knox suggested Starlight investigate. This field was eventually narrowed down to three finalists, for whom Idibri arranged a demo that let dozens of Starlight staffers, board members, donors and city officials listen to audio systems in the venue itself and do an A-B-C comparison using the same program material.
They emphasized the key criteria of intelligibility and music reproduction, as well as other areas of importance, such as the ability of the system components to endure outdoor use throughout what Barb Schulte, Starlight’s Director of Communications and Outreach, euphemized as Kansas City’s “challenging weather environment, especially in summertime.” And, says White, it became clear very shortly who the winner would be. “After as little as ten minutes for some individuals in attendance, it was unanimous: everyone loved the way the L-ACOUSTICS system sounded.”
Kent Andel, Production Manager for the theatre, says he was a fan of the previous system because of the warmth of its sound, but says that the new system exceeds its performance in a number of ways. “The intelligibility we need for diction and dialog are all there,” he says. “At the same time, it works for music. So the L-ACOUSTICS system won hands down.” This is especially impressive when considering that the compact modular KARA system went head-to-head with systems looking much bigger on paper.
The new L-ACOUSTICS line source array system was first used in late May for Starlight’s Blue Star Awards, a Tony Awards-style program to recognize metro area high school musical theatre talent. All of the system’s critical parameters were on the line, and it performed flawlessly. It will get an even more vigorous workout for the season’s first Broadway musical when The Wizard of Oz comes to Starlight in mid-June.
But even between those shows, the L-ACOUSTICS system is showing its versatility; it’s already been divided into three mini arrays – each with two SB18s, six KARA modules and all four ARCS enclosures – and used indoors in the Jeannette and Jerome Cohen Community Stage that’s part of the Starlight Theatre complex for off-season private events, receptions and parties. “In addition to sounding great, it’s also a very flexible system,” White says. “It’s as loud as we needed it to be, super clear, flexible and just a great choice for us.”
About Starlight Theatre
Starlight Theatre, winner of the 2013 Venue Excellence Award from the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), is the largest and oldest performing arts organization in Kansas City and the second-largest outdoor producing theatre in the country. Opened as a theater in 1950 and as a not-for-profit organization in 1951, Starlight presents and produces Broadway musicals and concerts. It also offers extensive community outreach and educational programming, including classes, scholarships and Starlight’s Blue Star Awards, one of the largest high school musical theatre award programs in the nation. Located on 16 acres in Swope Park, Starlight’s venue includes rehearsal halls, gift store, club area for dining, concessions, gardens, fountains and a 10-story, climate-controlled stage. For more information, visit www.kcstarlight.com
L-ACOUSTICS is a leading innovator and manufacturer of high-performance loudspeakers, amplifiers and signal processing devices for touring and installed sound markets. Known around the globe for pioneering and championing the modern line array loudspeaker concept with V-DOSC, the company has received numerous accolades for its K1, K2, KUDO, KARA, KIVA, ARCS, XT coaxial loudspeaker systems and SB line of subwoofer enclosures, all powered and processed with the LA4 and LA8 amplified controllers in fulfillment of a “total system approach.” Product distribution and customer service for the USA is handled by L-ACOUSTICS’ subsidiary in Oxnard, CA.
Credit for all images: Bob Compton
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