Live Design Award Winner: Jonathan Deans

Cirque du Soleil's Beatles LOVE
Cirque du Soleil's Beatles LOVE(Ethan Miller, Getty Images)

The third annual Live Design Awards honor a stellar group of theatre, opera, and concert designers as well as a leading architectural lighting design firm and a non-profit association. This year’s winners include: Es Devlin for brave new worlds in scenic design for concerts and theatre; the design team for Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet Of 1812 (Bradley King, lighting; Mimi Lien, sets; Nicholas Pope, sound; Paloma Young, costumes) for creating a truly exhilarating theatrical experience; Jonathan Deans for being a sound designer extraordinaire and winner of the second annual Abe Jacob Award for Sound Design; Tal Yarden for pushing the boundaries with cutting-edge projection and video design; Sooner Routhier and Robert Long for masterful teamwork for concert design and production; UVLD for continued excellence in corporate lighting design; and the Event Safety Alliance for selfless work in keeping our industry safe.

The 2017 Live Design Awards will be presented alongside Products of the Year and the Excellence in Live Design Awards during a reception June 12 in New York City, sponsored by GLP and Meyer Sound.

Cirque du Soleil Believe

Jonathan Deans

Winner of the second annual Abe Jacob Award for Distinguished Achievement in Sound—the first went to Jacob himself—Jonathan Deans began his career in his native England, then crossed the pond to make himself heard across the United States and around the world. In addition to myriad productions on Broadway, he has designed 14 shows for Cirque du Soleil, including Michael Jackson’s ONE, LOVE, Ovo, Elvis, Believe, Corteo, Kooza, Wintuk, KA, Zumanity, La Nouba, O, Mystère and Saltimbanco. And if you’ve ever sat in one of the seats where he has embedded tiny loudspeakers, we guarantee you’ll turn around a few times to see who is singing right behind you.

If Deans’ motto is “sound without focus is noise,” he is also aware of noise levels, especially for a show featuring the music of Michael Jackson, about which he says, “There has to be theatrical dynamics for an audience that is captive for 90 minutes, and the proper environment level-wise. We have to respect how much a person can take, physically and legally. You want them to leave on a high, not as if they spent 90 minutes in the ring with Mike Tyson pounding on their ears.” And when the technology he is looking for doesn’t exist, he simply invents it.

Helen and John Meyer of Meyer Sound, the legendary Abe Jacob, and Brandon Andreasen of Cirque du Soleil share their thoughts about Deans in conjunction with his Abe Jacob Award for Distinguished Achievement in Sound, which will be presented by director Diane Paulus and is sponsored by Meyer Sound.

We first met Jonathan when he was working at Autograph in London. Even though he was the youngster in the company, he had a spark that burned bright, and when he told us that he wanted to come to the States to work, we thought it was a great idea. His brilliant work with Cirque du Soleil, Broadway shows, and Vegas extravaganzas was extraordinary. He also did fantastically creative work with John Adams on The Death of Klinghoffer. Jonathan’s work is truly inspirational. He not only knows the art of creating remarkable sound designs, but he understands people, technology, and the business better than just about anyone. We are grateful to call Jonathan a friend and we congratulate him on this well-deserved award.

Helen and John Meyer, Meyer Sound

Cirque du Soleil's Saltimbanco

Jonathan Deans, like most of us, didn’t start out to be a sound designer. As a child, he spent two years acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company. While still a teenager, luckily for me and for the theatre world, he abandoned acting and progressed to sound. Around 1975, he met Andrew Bruce and went to work for newly formed Autograph Sound, operating the sound console at the Royal Opera House and other West End theatres. When I decided that Autograph would provide the sound equipment for the London production of A Chorus Line, Jonathan came with the gear.

He not only mixed A Chorus Line but also Evita and Best Little Whorehouse In Texas in London. He then came to America to mix a road company of A Chorus Line for me and then to open the US company of Evita. His career took off in the early ‘90s with his work for Cirque du Soleil, and since then, he has pushed the frontiers of audio technology even further. As an educator, designer, and innovator, he is the cutting-edge of what great sound design should be.

I am honored and pleased that my godson is going to receive this year’s Abe Jacob Award for Distinguished Achievement in Sound, but I am more privileged and fortunate to know that he is foremost, a friend.”

Abe Jacob, The Godfather Of Sound Design

Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson ONE

In 1999, as a young high-school theatre student, I had the opportunity to see a show called Mystère in Las Vegas. After seeing, and more specifically, hearing, that show I knew that was what I wanted to do. The sound designer for that show was Jonathan Deans. His design for that show set a standard for me as a young designer. Every show was measured against it. Did it have the same impact, innovation, and detail, and yet still transparently support the show? 

Not only have his designs set the bar for other designers, but they have pushed the envelope of product design. As a sound professional, even if you are unfamiliar with his work, there is a good chance that Jonathan has played a role in the design and development of equipment that you have used.

Jonathan also has an infectious passion for education and does not hesitate in sharing his wealth of knowledge and experience with others. He is a master of his craft as well as the collaborative art of the theater.

I consider it a privilege to have been a mix engineer on three of Jonathan’s Las Vegas shows over the past 12 years, including Mystère, his show that originally inspired me. Working with his state-of-the-art designs gives you the unique ability to know that you can confidently tackle any other show in the world of sound. 

Jonathan’s contributions to our profession truly make him deserving of the Abe Jacob Award for Sound Design.

Brandon Andreasen, Assistant Head of Audio, Michael Jackson ONE, Cirque du Soleil

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