After more than three years playing to sellout houses throughout the United Kingdom, North America, and Korea, a new production of the musical Miss Saigon opened recently in Australia to glowing reviews and wildly enthusiastic audiences. Created under the auspices of British impresario Cameron Mackintosh, the tour Down Under has been scaled back from its original large-scale format in order to accommodate a wider range of theatres, but no compromises were made in the visual techniques or sound.
To deliver the utmost in audio coverage and quality with a smaller footprint than previous productions, sound designer Peter Grubb, a director of System Sound Pty Ltd. of Melbourne, Australia, modified his previous design for the Korean production to a configuration incorporating eight self-powered Meyer Sound M'elodie™ ultracompact high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers.
“We started out in Australia at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne, which is a difficult room with very low balconies,” says Grubb. “I found that the M’elodies were perfect for spreading the sound evenly underneath, and also the extended range meant that I could use them for both orchestra and vocals. Moreover, I was impressed by how smooth the upper frequencies of the vocal spectrum sounded, and how little EQ was required.”
System Sound managing director John Scandrett finds that M'elodie ideally complements his company’s extensive inventory of M1D ultracompact curvilinear array loudspeakers, 16 of which are deployed on Miss Saigon. “I love the M1Ds, but the M’elodies certainly have serious musical clout,” says Scandrett. “Their tight coverage pattern control gives us an excellent direct-to-reverberant ratio on the longer throw, so they can shoot the 25-plus meters to the rear of the house and carry the vocal sound all the way there. And M'elodie is a good size for us, as it eliminates sight line problems.”
The Australian Miss Saigon system is built around two M'elodie arrays consisting of four cabinets per side, which cover the orchestra stalls, and four arrays of four M1D cabinets that deliver vocal coverage to the theatre's center and balcony areas. The system also uses five UPJ-1P compact VariO™ loudspeakers for vocal imaging, four 650-P high power subwoofers, and three MSL-4 horn-loaded long-throw loudspeakers for effects. Four UPA-1P compact wide coverage and 10 UPM-1P ultracompact wide coverage loudspeakers supply fill, effects, and stage foldback.
To keep the system aligned and fine-tuned, Grubb relies on a Galileo™ loudspeaker management system and the SIM® 3 audio analyzer. “I love the sound of Galileo’s TruShaping™ equalization and use it extensively,” he notes. “Also, the way Galileo interfaces with my SIM 3 is a dream. I used SIM analyzers on the systems in Korea, Melbourne, and Brisbane, and I’ll do the same when we move on to Sydney.”
Other key elements of the Miss Saigon audio system supplied by System Sound include a sizable Cadac J-Type console and 27 Sennheiser wireless microphones.
Grubb's success using M'elodie in the Australian Miss Saigon has inspired him to continue using the loudspeaker in his system designs. As part of System Sound’s ongoing relationship with the Cameron Mackintosh organization, Grubb also worked on the recently opened Brazilian production of Miss Saigon, where his reworked audio system features 16 M'elodie cabinets supplied by Loudness, a Meyer Sound rental provider in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
For his part, Scandrett plans to further his company’s investment in M'elodie. “We’ve built up our kit of M1Ds, and now I expect we’ll do the same with M'elodie,” he says. “They fit in very well with the types of theatres we work in throughout the regions, and they’re particularly suited to the larger theatres, as many have 40-meter throws. Later this year, we will provide 25 M’elodies for the upcoming production of Billy Elliot at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney, designed by Paul Arditti. M'elodie will really prove her mettle there.”
Grubb’s artistic contributions to Miss Saigon have been singled out by Australian theatre critics, with one reviewer citing the “deafening sound of the helicopter as heard through Peter Grubb’s excellent sound system,” while another praised audio that “literally rocks Her Majesty to her foundations.”
After its Melbourne run, Miss Saigon moved on to the Lyric Theatre in Brisbane's Queensland Performing Arts Centre, where it plays until continuing to its last scheduled stop, Sydney's Lyric Theatre in the Star City complex, where it opens in September and will play until the end of January 2008.