The most eagerly anticipated Broadway show of the season, Wicked, finally makes its bow this week at the Gershwin Theatre. Adapted from Gregory Maguire's book, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, the new musical, directed by Joe Mantello, takes place in the Land of Oz pre-Dorothy and Toto, and follows the relationship between two unlikely friends who grow up to be the Wicked Witch of the West and Gloria the Good Witch. While questions remain as to whether this new tuner has worked out the flaws noted by critics in its San Francisco run, it has already received kudos for its design team, which consists of set designer Eugene Lee, costume designer Susan Hilferty, lighting designer Ken Posner, sound designer Tony Meola, and projection designer Elaine McCarthy.

Entertainment Design will provide full coverage of all aspects of Wicked’s design in the February issue, but for now we offer you a quick peek at Meola’s sound. For this project, the designer has endeavored to enhance the show's lively musical mix, across rock numbers, ballads and pop, all performed by a rock band with woodwind, strings and brass overtones. Appropriately enough for a musical with a fairy tale twist, the designer’s first battle during the San Francisco tryout was with a giant dragon.

“The dragon [designed by Eugene Lee] is positioned at the center of the proscenium,” Meola explains, “meaning that we couldn't position a center cluster as I would prefer. As a result, I used the Meyer M1-D line array for the first time on this show, and it was good to have Meyer just across the Bay as we experimented with the system for the first time. But it all worked really well, and we got the sound we wanted, which makes the transfer much easier.”

Wicked features a cast of 34 performers, with a 24-piece band, plus a new 101-slot Cadac J-Type live production console, supplied by ProMix-Electrotec. The console is specified with a combination of 35 programmable stereo and mono dual-input modules, 48 standard dual-input modules, 67 motor faders and 14 groups, housed in two frames and controlled with Cadac's Sound Automation Manager (SAM) software.

“It's a big show--we have more automated modules on the Cadac than ever before--and we had some real fun putting the whole thing together,” Meola says. “The Gershwin Theatre has its challenges--it's a big barn of a space split across two levels, with most of the seats on the lower level, and our sound position is a fair way back in the middle of the stalls. But we have worked things out and the result sounds great.”

Meola’s team on the show includes associate sound designer Kai Harada, head operator Douglas Graves, plus Jack Babin, Shannon Slaton, Adam Rigby and John Curvan.

The show opens October 30. Stay tuned full coverage in the February issue of ED.