There is so much happening in the new Broadway extravaganza Bombay Dreams that it is hard to know where to look first. From glowing elephant monuments to a sky-high slum set piece to a water show that would make Shamu happy, Bombay Dreams is a visual feast. But with a score that features traditional Indian rhythms interwoven with pop music, bombastic rock, soft ballads, and often rambunctious percussion, the show is an aural feast as well.
Sound designer Mick Potter is responsible for making sure these sounds — foreign to the majority of New York audiences — are music to the ears of the patrons at the Broadway Theatre. “One of the main challenges was trying to make it quite cinematic, even though it's a book musical,” Potter explains. “I ended up using a digital console and a lot of surround sound because nearly all the orchestra is mixed in surround, which is pretty unusual for a Broadway show.”
The console in question is the Yamaha PM 1D, fully stocked with 96 inputs/74 outputs with dual DSP main and backup engines. This is the first Broadway show using a PMID at FOH; Masque Sound was instrumental in making the board available for the show. Potter also complemented that with a Yamaha DM2000 submixer running about 116 Hz total.
The idea for making Bombay Dreams sound more like a movie is largely due to Andrew Lloyd Webber's record producer Nigel Wright, who saw the movie Moulin Rouge and convinced Lord Lloyd Webber — the show's producer — that Bombay Dreams should sound cinematic in some scenes but like a traditional stage musical in others. “The biggest singular challenge was figuring out which numbers would work in surround and which wouldn't,” Potter says. “In simple terms, a bass drum that is playing in constant rhythm will not work in surround because you can only time align your system and subsystems for the audience members in front.”
Songs that work better in surround sound are those that are not so timing-dependent, such as strings, keyboards, and so on. Mixing the Broadway version of the show was a tad easier, then, as there were nine strings added to the orchestra, which also lends itself even more to the big Bollywood sound so prevalent in the show.
The speakers in the main proscenium of the theatre are Meyer M2Ds, while Meyer CQ1s and CQ2s take on the clusters and the near-fill. All of the small speakers, including the surround sound and the delays, were either d&b audiotechnik EE-0s or E3s.
To further rock the house of the Broadway Theatre, two of the boxes house percussionists on either side of the stage, a setup that provided Potter with another set of mixing challenges. “They obviously have to play with the orchestra — which is separate — as well as along with each other,” he explains. “And they are very loud acoustically. The way around that was that I fed them gradually into the systems that were further away from them. If you're near them, you hear them virtually acoustically. The further away you sit from them, the more of them you hear through the sound system, which seemed to be the only way to treat them really.”
Since Bombay Dreams deals with a slum boy who rises to fame and fortune making Bollywood movies, it was integral to the show to have a scene that echoes those movies' overblown theatricality. That scene is during the song “Shakalaka Baby,” where the cast cavorts among the jets of a massive water fountain on stage. The song, however, is part of the movie within the musical so it's pre-recorded. The main issue with this number is to have two versions running in-sync with one another in the event the first one fails. However, the big issue with the song is all that water! Potter says that the two principals — who must sing a lengthy love song in the next scene — actually have two mics with plastic “shower caps” on them that they pull off at the end of the number. Only in Bollywood.