"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
As the UK tour of Legally Blonde heads out for its second Leg, following a little rest over the pantomime season, I noticed that I’d not written on here and told you guys all about it!
One of the funniest shows I’ve had the pleasure of working on, I was thrilled when the shows producers asked me to sound design this comedy musical on its UK and Ireland tour. Directed by the lovely Anthony Williams, arranged and conducted by James McCullagh, this production introduced some subtle changes from the previous versions. One of which was the shows orchestral arrangements. James had worked hard on these to broaden their tone and make them feel a little more orchestral than pop. Something I think he’s done a great job of. I spoke with Anthony and James about one of my main challenges from the beginning with this production. The girl heavy vocal nature of the show can make for an uncomfortable shouty feel in the big sections, something that I was really keen to avoid. James agreed and some of the new vocal arrangements help with this but I felt I needed to be selective in the components of the show’s sound design to help with this.
After some listening tests of several different speaker systems from a number of manufactures, I returned to Martin Audio a company I know well. Having designed several musicals on their XD12 speaker system, I auditioned their larger XD15 point source offering and was very pleased that the system still exhibited the tone I like so much from the 12s, but with a more powerful low mid driver needed for this application. My designs also make good use of the speakers rotatable horn in wider venues, so it was also great news that the XD15 has this feature. The Martin boxes have naturally quite a soft sounding HF which has certainly helped keep the tone of the vocals under control here.
Some other tech that I have been really impressed with on this production has been the Allen & Heath ME1 personal monitor systems. I’ve had some demo systems around for a while now and thought this would be a great show to commit to them fully. I love that the system allows selection from a possible 40 inputs, giving full flexibility to our musicians but also the grouping feature allowing custom groups has worked really well. Our system is installed with MADI cards in both the main and spare ME-U brains, so takes all the inputs right from the Digico system. Its been solid all tour.
Last Item our team has implemented that has been a game changer is the Wavestool software to monitor the radio mics systems. I initially put it on the show as an easy way to monitor both Sennhesier and Shure radio mics as we have a mix on the show. I didn’t want to be messing about with two lots of software however its become so much more than that. With access at front of house, stage and anywhere else on our sound no2s ipad, we can listen and monitor not only radio mics but the full band too. This has allowed our team to find and identify problems on stage or in the pit fast, even allowing staff to fix issues whilst streaming audio to the ipad remotely to ensure the problem is solved. A total game changer.
The tour has been going really well so far with some great reviews across the country. It helps that all the cast are great and we truly have what I believe are one of the best teams on the show I’ve worked with. A bit thanks to Associate Designer Matt Chisholm, Production sound engineer’s Richard Pomeroy and Rob Parkinson, Head of sound Kieron McGuire and sound no2 Luke Capay for all their efforts. A great team. If your interested in a fab night out Id highly recommend catching the show as it tours the UK. Its a lot of fun.
Check out the shows trailer here.