Sweet Home Argentina, Evita Part 4: The Sound

Having designed the London revival, UK-based sound designer Mick Potter found that, in New York, “while the physical production is quite similar, director Michael Grandage didn’t want to treat the show as a direct revival of the 2006 production.” In addition, Potter notes that the two productions essentially “have quite a different sound design, because the technology has changed so much over the past six years.”

On Broadway, the sound design features more than 200 loudspeakers, partly because of the nature of the score and partly because of the acoustics of the theatre. The main proscenium system features left and right Meyer Sound M’elodie arrays of 14 loudspeakers per side and a center cluster of three UPJ-1Ps, placed “a little further upstage than most clusters, to try to get the best vocal image possible,” explains Potter. The main proscenium subwoofers are two Meyer Sound 600-HPs, two 500-HPs, and two UMS-1Ps distributed around the proscenium, with a further 12 MM-10 subs also used in the auditorium.

At the Marquis Theatre, which Potter calls “a big, very dry space, with no reverb time at all,” the sound designer found the acoustics a challenge for a musical like Evita. He put more than 100 small, distributed d&b audiotechnik E0 loudspeakers for delays and surround in the orchestra and mezzanine of the theatre. In addition, 30 miniature DPA microphones are distributed on the ceiling on both levels, with their signals routed to TC Electronic TC6000 reverbs and sent back into the speaker system to add friendlier acoustics to the room. “These mics come directly into the sound desk, so they can also be manipulated as part of the show,” Potter says.

Potter also switched the digital console in New York to a DiGiCo SD7, which he says “sounds great and has a huge amount of flexibility on set up and routing. It also has dynamic EQ for each band of each channel, which I think is a much more flexible and less intrusive way of EQing, particularly vocals.”

The soaring score of Evita embraces various sound qualities. “The orchestral part of the score should sound natural and still feel like it’s imaging from the orchestra pit, although the big moments can be more cinematic and in surround,” says Potter. “Some of the Latin and rock moments also need to feel big. It’s a show of contrasting dynamics, with intimate, quiet moments as well, such as ‘Lament,’ with just an acoustic guitar and voice. The challenge is getting the balance right to keep it exciting but with a consistent image and vocal intelligibility.”

Actors wear Sennheiser SK5212 transmitters with DPA 4061 head mics. “The DPAs have a very transparent quality; they don’t color the sound or get too ambient even though they are omni-directional,” Potter says. “All the principals wear main and backup transmitters with 38 channels in total used in the show.”

Another challenge Potter faced was physically fitting the musicians into the pit. “Dave, the percussionist, is in a separate room under-stage, with a big set up of both orchestral and Latin drums,” notes Potter, who put separate Meyer Sound UP-Junior speakers in the pit just for the percussion so it sonically lives with the orchestra.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Cullen updated the orchestrations, starting with the London revival. “Whilst working with Grandage on the sound, he only ever talked about the show as a new musical. We never referenced any previous productions,” asserts Potter.

Elena Roger “sounds every bit as brilliant as in London,” Potter adds. “For some people, Evita seems to have a history with a certain singer, and it is hard to conceive someone else creating the role.” As Roger only sings six performances a week, Potter had to tweak and rebalance the show for the alternate, Christina DeCicco.

“Ricky Martin was an absolute joy to work with,” confirms Potter. “He has a gorgeous voice, and the tone is beautiful, while Michael Cerveris as Juan Perón has a big, captivating ‘Broadway’ voice, with amazing control. He really does all the work for you. For sound, there is a good contrast between the three lead voices.

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