"It’s hard to see how this production could be improved on. Festive family theatre rarely gets better than this." Nigel Smith for The Stage
"Accompaniment under musical director Tom Chester is first rate, as is the excellent sound balance from Chris Bogg that crisply delivers words and music throughout." Nigel Smith Musical Theatre review.
A welcomed return to the Hope Mill for me this August along with another chance to work with old friends Director James Baker and MD Tom Chester.
Jerry Springer The Opera when last performed in the Uk, saw protests outside the theatre and national outrage when it was shown on the TV, but its never been more relevant than right now. With whats happening in the world and Jeremy Kyle being axed recently, telling this bonkers story albeit with a little twist really was a lot of fun.
Not without its technical challenges, not least I think the largest cast to date in a production at Hope Mill. "Jerry" was always going to be racous and in your face. Its a show where for the most part some one is angry and yelling at someone else! The biggest challenge for me was to ensure that this didnt feel like three acts of confrontation but had the dynamic flow of a musical. There are some great musical numbers in the show, from the loudest to beautiful heart felt ballards. I wanted to guarantee our band of six players who where tucked away remotly in the band room, could be heard too.
The low ceiling in the Hope Mill along with this productions traverce staging did pose a test with our speaker positions. I carefully plotted some ideas on the plan and elivation drawings of the theatre and it needed something unusually verticaly wide, powerful and yet very compact enough to drop from the truss and not feel like it detracted from Victoria Hinton-Albrieux set design.
I had used the dB Technologies DVX 8 HP before on a number of projects for on stage monitoring. After using them on our production of Hair at the Hope Mill a year or two back, they fitted the job perfectly. Compact and light enough to go on a drop arm from the truss, so we could set the right height for them. Super wide vertical coverage or 70 degrees which gives me 35 degrees from the on axis point down wards, which really helps to get even coverage across our audience area without the use of delays. One thing I did notice with these boxes which helped too, is that they are quite well behaved off axis too for a small box. With the front row of audience being only around 2 ft from the performing area, I needed all the gain before feedback I could get. At some points in the big numbers we would have 14 radio mics open in the PA and I found we could still achieve the level we needed, with a warm and open tone too.
With the DVX chosen as my left right and centre speaker system, it made sense to select a sub designed to work with all those boxes. The S09 from dB Technologies has worked well for me in the space before, it fits nicely under the seating banks in the Hope Mill and whilst that wouldnt be my first choice position, I know space is always at a premuim with such a big show in a small space. Once I and Associate Sound Designer Mike Jewitt had timed these to the system, they worked really well at extending the low energy of the main system, without distracting from the overall sound of the band. I also must thank Mike for getting stuck right in when it came to recording some of the EPK's and click tracks during our busy tech week. Shows like this, with very small teams, can be really tight for time before press night and it really was all hands to get the show ready.
Out front I selected a Digico SD9T for our operator Vicky to mic on. The Digico really is the most flexible programming tool for musical theatre and makes progamming a show with cast playing multiple roles, deps in the pit and understudies etc a piece of cake. We made great use of the multi track recording features for Vicky to learn the show around tech. This can really help with diagnosing little problems that can not always be quickly found during tech. It also was great for working on the sound of the band too. It's amazing though, once you realise just how much noise our cast made when your mixing the same levels and they're not there! In such a small space like the Hope Mill we receive so much directly from the stage.
I very much enjoyed being back and working on "Jerry" after a little break from fringe theatre and it looks like the press and audiences did too. The show has received some amazing reviews, some I've linked below.
Musical Theatre Review
Photo Credit: Anthony Robling.