Fiddler on the Roof, one of the longest running and most beloved musicals in Broadway history, has returned to the stage in Australia and New Zealand, most notably at the spectacular Civic Theatre in Auckland, New Zealand. With sold-out performances on the horizon, tour management wanted a powerful system that would ensure clear delivery of the musical’s potent wordplay and orchestral accompaniment. The Fiddler team selected locally based Oceania Audio to provide sound reinforcement for the Auckland dates, and Oceania chose to supply a self-powered system based on Meyer Sound’s MILO® high-power curvilinear array loudspeaker.
The venue presented its share of technical hurdles. “The Civic Theatre is quite sizeable, nearly 2,400 seats, with a very large balcony section that comprises about two-thirds of the overall seating, so you have to almost split the PA into two separate systems,” says Richard Baker, who shared sound design duties with Oceania Audio’s Peter Hughes. “Plus, the design of the proscenium arch gave us limited space to hang speakers from.
“The biggest challenge was to make the show sound natural, versus sounding amplified or overly produced,” adds Baker. “The story is so important, particularly the nuances of the dialogue and jokes between the principals. We wanted the audience to be able to catch it all.”
Baker and Hughes laid out the unusual configurations of the historic theatre in Meyer Sound’s MAPP Online Pro™ acoustical prediction software, then used the program to determine optimal speaker placement. To cover the theatre’s extensive balcony, they hung two arrays, comprised of six MILO loudspeakers and one M3D-Sub directional subwoofer each. Four MSL-4 horn-loaded long-throw loudspeakers covered the lower balcony. A center cluster of four flown UPA-1P compact wide coverage loudspeakers proved essential to the overall design. “The center cluster was definitely the linchpin that held our system together,” says Hughes. “It made the audience feel as if they were right there by the stage.”
In the lower section, two CQ-1 wide coverage main loudspeakers were mounted behind the proscenium to cover the stalls (orchestra seating), while a 700-HP ultrahigh-power subwoofer and a UPA-2P compact narrow coverage loudspeaker were positioned at the far left and right sides of the stage to provide fill for the first few rows. Four M1D ultracompact curvilinear array loudspeakers covered the area under the balcony.
Judging by praise from cast members, media, and theatregoers alike, the design and performance of the system was an unqualified success. “One of the things I really appreciated about the Meyer Sound speakers was their quality right out of the box,” says Hughes. “Their products have such a natural sound to them before they’re even tuned. Instead of spending hours equalizing, we were able to concentrate on more important issues with the design.” Baker echoes his partner’s sentiments. “Using the Meyer gear made our job much easier,” he says. “With us having to step in midway through the production when it arrived at the Civic Theatre, having a seamless rig ready to go was a huge advantage.”