BSMC Spotlight: Jonathan Deans

Anyone who was at the Broadway Sound Master Classes last year can attest to the fact that Jonathan Deans gave a Tony Award-winning performance in his presentation about the sound design for The Pirate Queen on Broadway. This year, the BSMC is lucky enough to be attending Deans’ next Broadway venture, the hilarious Mel Brooks’ musical, Young Frankenstein, which means another great performance by Deans is waiting in the wings.

Deans works frequently on Broadway—where his credits include Young Frankenstein, The Pirate Queen, Lestat, Brooklyn, Taboo, Follies, Seussical, The Music Man, Fosse, Parade, Ragtime, Street Corner Symphony, Candide, and Damn Yankees. But he also works with Cirque du Soleil, where he has designed Love, KA, O, Zumanity, La Nouba, and Mystère, leaving audiences spellbound by sound that sometimes appears to zip in and out of their ears.

Born in the UK, Deans started out at the RSC, Covent Garden, and the West End where he mixed shows before he began designing. Keep an ear out for future work with Cirque around the globe, including a new project in Las Vegas later this year.

At the BSMC this year, he will present a session entitled: Monster Sound, in which he will dissect the sound design for Young Frankenstein. When asked what was the most challenging part of that process, he replied, “For the first few months, feeling I was one of the creative team, as they had previously worked together on The Producers.”

In addressing the BSMC, Deans is not only funny but also has a few words of wisdom for the attendees. “The creative ideas inside your head should be without boundaries, and during production you must allow the real world restrictions and formulas to be able to change, re-shape and layer your ideas into 'the work,' he says.

In terms of gear, he notes: “Digital console are now the norm although how they are programmed is still being worked out. Sound consoles need a programmer much like a moving light programmer for lighting.” Looking into the future he predicts: Tracking systems for tracking actors will be the next big thing, so we can focus the sound on the speaking/singing actor using constantly changing delays, panning, and levels,” he says. “This will produce the same effect that one hears in a natural environment, meaning the same acoustical references as without reinforcement/amplification.

“Of course all this is providing the FCC has not sold all the airwaves to cell and TV companies. By the end of 2009 we will not be able to use any wireless microphones or communications currently used in the entertainment industry throughout the United States. Most of our heads are buried in the ground hoping this goes away but I can hear the lawn mower coming. Huge chucks of airwaves have already been sold for billions of dollars to ATT and Verizon.” Interestingly, as Deans points out: “They have not started using these newly purchased bandwidths YET!”

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