Les Misérables has had such a long and varied life that it's surprising the show hasn't toured extensively as a concert. But a recent tour of Scandinavia — running from late October through November and hitting Sweden, Denmark, and Norway — marked the first time the musical had ever toured multiple cities. Theatrical sound design and rental specialist Autograph Sound Recording provided the sound reinforcement system and sound design for the tour.
That's fitting, since Autograph has been involved with Les Misérables since its chairman Andrew Bruce designed the original London production back in 1985. Due to the scale of the tour, the company supplied an extensive Meyer Sound system based around a large complement of M3D Line Array loudspeakers. The show was designed and mixed by Autograph's Nick Lidster, a member of the original sound department on the London production who has gone on to design and mix all concert versions of the show performed in the UK, including the Tenth Anniversary celebration at Royal Albert Hall in 1995.
“Les Misérables is a show we all know so well from the various theatre versions which have taken place around the world,” says Lidster. “The concert version obviously requires a much bigger sound system so as to cater to the large arenas we are playing, but it must still maintain the show's inherent theatrical feel.” Giant screens and live video from the stage production are used to help capture the atmosphere of the stage production.
Autograph is using a computer-controlled Cadac J type front-of-house console with over 120 input channels and a 56-channel Midas Heritage monitor console for the tour. More than 110 microphones from AKG, Sennheiser, Schoeps, ElectroVoice, Shure, Beyer, and Neumann are being employed across the 80-piece Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, 200-member choir, 40-piece ensemble, and lead performers. The main PA consists of 24 Meyer Sound M3Ds, with 30 MSL-4 Horn-Loaded Long-Throw loudspeakers available for side fill and delay systems depending on the requirements of individual venues.
“Les Misérables has always featured Meyer loudspeakers and I felt that continuity with Andrew Bruce's original sound design was very important when planning the sound quality for this tour,” said Lidster. “In designing this system I spent quite a few months with AutoCAD drawings of each venue to help me decide on rigging positions and the number of M3Ds and MSL-4s I would need. I am using Meyer Sound's MAPP Online™ (Multipurpose Acoustical Prediction Program) to predict and fine-tune the M3D's vertical coverage in each venue and I have used SIM® System II FFT Analyzer primarily as a reference and diagnostic tool. So far the planning and choice of equipment has paid off. The concert shows have sounded big, clear, and impressive.”
The Scandinavian tour, produced by Cameron Mackintosh in association with Noble Art, starred Danish musical icon Stig Rossen in the leading role and commemorated author Victor Hugo's 200th birthday. Additional venues on the tour included the Stockholm Globen, Oslo Spektrum, the Helsinki Hartwell Areena, and the Gothenburg Scandinavium, with audiences totaling over 150,000 for the complete tour.