Custom Audio Equipment Package Brings Dickens Classic to Life for Sound Designer Joshua D. Reid
NEW YORK, DECEMBER 14, 2022 – A Christmas Carol recently arrived at Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre and Sound Designer Joshua D. Reid called upon Masque Sound, a leading theatrical sound reinforcement, installation and design company, to provide a custom audio equipment package for the critically acclaimed holiday classic featuring a tour-de-force performance from Tony Award® winner Jefferson Mays.
In this production of A Christmas Carol, the timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge comes to thrilling new life as Tony Award winner Jefferson Mays plays over 50 roles in a virtuosic, master class of a performance that must be seen to be believed. This theatrical achievement comes from the haunting and hope-filled vision of one of Broadway’s most imaginative directors, Michael Arden.
Masque Sound provided a custom audio set up for the film version of the play back in 2020, so for Reid it was just natural to bring Masque along to Broadway. “When we filmed at the United Palace, Masque Sound was wonderful to work with, so we wanted to make sure we approached them first when we moved to the stage,” says Reid. “As we started planning for the stage version of the production, we knew we were going to need a lot more in terms of equipment and we had full confidence that Masque Sound could provide everything we needed.”
Transitioning from film to the Broadway stage meant the addition of a full PA system. “For the filming, we did not really have any loudspeakers on the stage or in the house as we were mixing down the audio for film recording so it could be dissected and put it together in the studio,” adds Reid. “When we moved to the live stage version of the show, we had to add in all the loudspeakers to make it a fully aural immersive experience. Masque Sound was wonderful in providing us the PA we needed to deliver that experience to our audience.”
The PA system provided is composed of speakers from Meyer Sound. According to Reid, “We flew a Meyer M’elodie line array system with 700-HP subwoofers for our center array along with the ULTRA-X40 for our left and right mains. We also utilized Meyer Sound’s 600-HP delay subwoofers for the balcony, with additional MM10 subwoofers for the rear orchestra. I am very comfortable with Meyer and the fact that Masque Sound was able to provide the amount of reinforcement we needed allowed us to deliver that immersive experience that we set out for.”
One of the interesting components of the audio package is the use of microphones. “Jefferson wears four wireless microphones all around his head during the production,” says Reid. “That is a lot of microphones for one person, but he is out there for 90 minutes straight and doesn’t have a chance to change mics. We use Sennheiser MKE1 lavaliers along with Shure ADX1M transmitters with Axient Digital series receivers, all provided by Masque.”
The show also relies heavily on QLab playback. “Our system primarily consists of QLab for audio playback and Ableton for vocal processing,” adds Reid. “There are about 335 operater cues over the course of 90 minutes and some of those are soundscapes, music — and a lot of those are different vocal inflections so the reverb processing and vocal inflection processing is done through Ableton. We take all the live mics that Jefferson is using to not only reinforce him on the stage, but we use that to put him in different environments and to change the tonality of his voice over the course of the show. Ableton is a platform that is traditionally used for musical instrument processing and so we have taken the human voice and treated it as a musical instrument. We can change the pitch and the tamber and tone to match the many various character vocalizations that he is trying to create. It’s quite spectacular and I am incredibly proud of the result.”
For the production, Mix Engineers Maxine Gutierrez and Ian Carr operate the show and control the vocal levels from a Yamaha CL5 digital audio mixing console, also provided by Masque Sound. The system is networked over Dante.
“In addition to Maxine and Ian who do an incredible job, I also want to acknowledge the incredible work of Production Engineer Dillon Cody as well as my Assistant Sound Designers Megan Culley and Sam Kusnetz,” adds Reid. “The team came together and did a great job. It was also terrific to be working with Masque Sound again and the equipment and technical support they provide is always top notch. I can’t imagine doing the show without their support.”