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L-Acoustics Provides Voice from Above on The Book of Mormon
Since its official March 24 début at Manhattan’s Eugene O’Neill Theatre, The Book of Mormon quickly proved to be 2011’s hottest Broadway hit. Written by South Park’s Trey Stone and Matt Parker with Avenue Q’s Robert Lopez, the hilariously irreverent musical was nominated for 14 Tony Awards earlier this year, ultimately taking home nine of them in June, including one for Best Sound Design.
The prized statuette went to sound designer Brian Ronan, who was similarly recognised with an award for Outstanding Sound Design at this year’s Drama Desk Awards in May for his contributions to Anything Goes.
Ronan, who has long been a fan of L-Acoustics’ dV-DOSC modular line source loudspeaker system, was faced with a challenge when he originally began the sound design process for The Book of Mormon. The set for the show features a false proscenium designed to resemble Salt Lake City’s Mormon Tabernacle, complete with a golden statue of the angel Moroni on its pinnacle. In order to not occlude the statue, which spins at one point during the show, Ronan had production engineer Christopher Sloan hang a downfill array of nine dV-DOSC cabinets in a nearly horizontal orientation above the real proscenium.
“Chris did an amazing job of turning my downfill design into a reality,” says Ronan. “The tight pattern of the dV-DOSC array allowed us to hit everything from the first row all the way back to the under balcony overhang without splashing onto the stage or balcony rail. It’s a relatively small area to cover, but it’s an extremely valuable one because those are the ‘money seats’ where the critics and highest-paying customers sit. We needed it to sound perfect where they’re sitting. Particularly in that section there’s no excuse, regardless of scenery, to not sound right and the dV-DOSC have been wonderful.”
Twin arrays of six dV-DOSC each flank the centre downfill array at the proscenium and address the mezzanine seats. Out in the house, two more arrays of five dV-DOSC hang from the front-of-house lighting truss and cover the balcony seating areas.
For low-end reinforcement, a single dV-SUB subwoofer system is positioned on the orchestra floor on each side of the stage. Furthermore, a unique cluster of three dV-SUB is flown between the dV-DOSC delays with the centre sub rotated 180 degrees to create a cardioid low frequency system.
“One of the big issues in a traditional theatre is getting low-frequency energy even throughout the house because you can’t just stack subs on or off the stage and expect them to propagate evenly,” Sloan explains. “However, Brian’s decision to put a second set of subs up with the delay truss speakers allowed us to get more low-frequency energy into the balcony without overwhelming people down front, and the cardioid pattern also kept us from putting that energy onto the stage.”
All of the dV-DOSC and dV-SUB systems used for the production are powered and processed by a total of nine LA8 amplified controllers housed backstage.
“An unexpected challenge to the design was the need to deliver the show’s fast paced string of clever dialogue and intelligent lyrics over the audience’s laughter,” says Ronan. “The show is a constant stream of comedy, which is why it was absolutely critical that we cover every seat with a full-on vocal system that would allow the front row, back of the balcony, and everyone in between to not miss a single line – even during the biggest laughs. This system very effectively achieves that.”
Ronan and Sloan first met many years ago as apprentices for Masque Sound, which appropriately packed and supplied the system for The Book of Mormon. Since then, the two audio professionals have used dV-DOSC together on a number of Broadway productions in recent years, including Promises Promises and Next To Normal.
“I particularly like dV-DOSC because it crosses over at around 800Hz, which is a lower frequency than some of the other brands, without sacrificing intelligibility,” the sound designer adds. “This helps the cabinet sound a little warmer right off that bat without any EQ. I really appreciate that as a starting place. Plus, I love the flexibility of the array designs. It’s nice to be able to pick and choose how much I want to spread a cabinet and how many seats I want to hit. I’ve always found it to be an extremely versatile box.”
In picture: A scene from The Book of Mormon. Photo: Joan Marcus; The dV-DOSC downfill (centre) and mezzanine arrays.
27th October 2011
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