Situated in the heart of the theatre district on 44th Street between Broadway and Sixth, Manhattan's Lamb's Theatre has had a history as colorful as its surroundings. For years this historic landmark served as the home of the Lamb's Club, a fraternity of sorts for New York actors. In 1975, during what was perhaps the height of the prostitution and X-rated theatre phase of the Times Square district, the Lamb's was purchased by the Church of the Nazarene. The church used the space for worship and outreach programs, all the while renting out its charming 350-seat mainstage theatre for Off Broadway productions, and its smaller theatre for theatre and other events.
Today, in the family-friendly Disney era of Times Square, the Lamb's continues to rent out its mainstage for Off Broadway theatre; recent productions have included Retribution, Smoke on the Mountain, and Magic on Broadway. Special events such as Broadway Kids, a revue of child actors currently appearing in area shows, occur regularly; Woody Allen even shot several scenes with Hugh Grant for his current film project in the space. But the latest chapter in the Lamb's might be one of its most intriguing: every Sunday the main theatre is used as a studio for a live radio broadcast of Christian Contemporary acts that airs on over 250 stations across the country (and is also simulcast online). Titled, appropriately enough, Live From the Lamb's, this two-hour show features acts ranging from gospel singer Babbie Mason to crossover rock band Jars of Clay.
The fact that this weekly event is broadcast from the Lamb's is a coup in itself; the fact that there was no permanent sound system in place when it was first started is rather astounding. Steven Connolly, who oversees the audio production for the show and the theatre, points out that initially all the equipment was brought in each week specifically for the broadcast. "For the first six months, we were renting a front-of-house and monitor system from SK Systems on Long Island, and then I brought in my own PA for the front of house," he explains. "During that time, we knew we wanted to get our own system in the theatre; the theatre wanted it, the church wanted it, and we wanted it. But it was a big cash outlay."
One of the early acts that performed at the Lamb's was a band called the Ragamuffins. The band's leader, Rick Elias, mentioned to Connolly that he had a friend at Meyer Sound, Greg McVeigh, who might be able to help. "Rick gave me the guy's card and I stuck it in my pocket and said, 'Yeah, right, Meyer Sound's gonna help us out.' About a month went by, and I happened to be at the Meyer website, and the first picture I see was Rick, and it was a story about the band touring with Meyer products, and about how Meyer was getting into the church market. And the story mentioned Greg, who happened to be the head of sales for North America. So I said, I gotta call this guy."
Call he did, and after discussing his needs with both McVeigh and Brian Coviello, who heads up Northeast sales for Meyer, Connolly was able to work out a deal that brought to the Lamb's four Meyer UPA-1P self-powered speakers for the room and two USW-P subwoofers for under the stage. Connolly was looking for a compact speaker that wouldn't interfere with the aesthetics of the room, which is all wood, and the UPA-1Ps fit the bill. "Greg and Brian really started knocking walls down for us," Connolly says. "They captured the vision of what we were doing."
Once the speakers were in place, Connolly began calling other audio companies. In the end, he acquired an Allen & Heath GL4000 console with a GL2 sidecar, a range of microphones from Audix, an Ashly 31-band graphic equalizer, a Tascam MD501 mini-disk player, and DBX 166 compressors. Connolly installed much of the equipment with the help of freelance engineer Jon Laterza, and he has received much help since from Raheem Billips and Justin Hullinger. Recently, Meyer representatives came in and permanently EQ-ed the room with the Meyer CP-10 parametric equalizer.
All the radio broadcast equipment, which includes a Telos Zephyr, a mixer that transmits audio over a single ISDN line, is kept in a separate room. Connolly has it set up so that the Allen & Heath board does most of the work in the theatre.
"I love the Allen & Heath board because it's a multifunction board," Connolly says. "I can do the front-of-house mix for the in-house audience, the stage monitor mix, and the radio broadcast mix from the same board. If we had our druthers--and a few more bucks--we'd like to set up another room with a straight radio mix. Believe it or not, a lot of radio shows mix the way we do.
"The way I do the radio mix," he continues, "is on each channel, I'll send a signal to the left and right mix for the stereo feed to the house, and then I'll also send each channel to a sub-group mix. Instead of sending the sub-group mix to the house, which will just screw up the whole left-right thing, I'll send it to a matrix, so I have eight channels of sub-mixes, and I can change the radio mix the way I want without affecting the house."
Overall, Connolly is pleased with the theatre's new system. "Everybody really came to the table for us," he says. "We have a nice little PA in there now."