This year’s Tony Award for Best Musical went to Kinky Boots, with sound designer John Shivers also taking home a Tony for Best Sound Design Of A Musical. Kinky Boots has songs by Cyndi Lauper, who won a Tony for Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics), and book by Harvey Fierstein based on the 2005 British film about a struggling shoe factory that starts making fetish footwear for drag queens and finds itself back in business. Additional Kinky Boots Tony winners: Stephen Oremus, Best Orchestrations; Billy Porter, Best Actor; and director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell, Best Choreography.

“I worked with Cyndi years ago, on an AIDS benefit concert where she was one of the many performing artists at Avery Fisher Hall. I was the audio supervisor, that was my first exposure to her,” says Shivers, who was brought on board for Kinky Boots by Mitchell and Oremus. Shivers analyzed the architecture at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, his goal being “designing a system capable of supplying good quality sound to every seat in the house,” with the awareness that Kinky Boots is more of a pop show than more traditional Broadway musicals.

“But what is traditional these days?” muses Shivers: “Some shows are more rock than others such as Phil Collins’ Tarzan, or Elton John’s Aida, but even shows like Bonnie and Clyde, Nine to Five, or Sister Act are more pop than say Guys and Dolls. My background is more in pop music so I’m comfortable in the genre,” Shivers continues, noting that he was a musician early on,  then working as a recording engineer at Electric Lady, Jimi Hendrix’s studio in New York City. “I cut my teeth in the recording studio and touring with music acts before moving to Broadway.”

For Kinky Boots, Shivers set up a small audio system at a 42nd St Studios for a reading in January 2012, which was his first exposure to the show. “I heard the music and got a pretty solid idea of where they were going. But it wasn’t until when we did the show in Chicago last fall, and it was first put in front of an audience with costumes, wigs… you get the big picture,” he notes.

“I really like the Hirschfeld theatre, it has relatively open seating,” explains Shivers. “Jerry Mitchell was concerned about the aesthetics of the proscenium, he really didn’t want to see the loudspeakers.” As a result Shivers used Meyer Sound MINA compact line arrays: “They are small but have quite a bit of power and nice fidelity, we pushed the speakers a little further off stage than I might have liked them, but still avoided putting them too far behind the seating boxes” he says.

“My biggest challenge was how the show fit into the space in terms of creating a decent surround system,” says Shivers, who uses surrounds for some of the dance music, by taking some of the instruments and flying them around the room to bring the audience in and heightening some of the musical numbers. “I don’t however, like to overuse the surround system, it loses its impact.” The surround speakers are d&b audiotechnik E0.

There are also two delay rings under the balcony with d&b audiotechnik E6 and E0 speakers, as there is a fairly long distance from balcony rail to back of the house. “I basically wanted to insure good coverage everywhere,” says Shivers.

For microphones he used Sennheiser Sk5212 transmitters with MKE-1 lavalier mics. “Mic’ing challenges were presented by the guys with little or very short hair, or combating the reflections you get off the brim of a hat, there are always compromises to be made to accommodate everybody,” says Shivers, who worked with associate designer David Patridge, who is also the board op on Kinky Boots.

Shivers and Patridge opted for a DiGiCo SD7Tconsole, liking its powerful system and diminutive size. “A few years ago, I saw a brief demo at Masque Sound when the SD7 first became available,” he recalls. “Seeing the feature set and the redundant engine and power supplies all onboard got me interested, notes Shivers. The console offers a lot of flexibility, especially with the “T” software, which he says "brings features and functionality specific to our needs on theatrical productions as well as a solid sounding foundation in a very compact package." Masque Sound provided the gear for Kinky Boots.

The show’s system inputs total 116 analog and six AES, in addition to 60 analog outputs and 14 AES outputs. The production uses a pair of DiGiCo SD Racks along with the local I/O and MADI for the QLab playback system. They took advantage of the onboard MADI Split on the SD Rack in order to provide audio to a Yamaha PM5D monitor console.

“The new racks offer a host of features positioning them well for use where audio is being split to a number of places like OB trucks etc., without needing to tap into the topology of the SD7 audio engines,” says Patridge. “We use the onboard processing extensively for band reverbs and dynamics, which really cuts down on the real estate at the FOH position. The only outboard gear we’re using is a couple of Avalon Tube Compressors for our lead vocalists to fatten up their vocals. We also have a TC6000 System and Eventide H3000 for vocal effects and reverbs, etc."

As for Kinky Books, Shivers feels “it is a great piece, very entertaining, a feel good musical with a message.”