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re: Mack & Mabel
Last Edit: Chromolume 06:26 pm EDT 08/12/22
Posted by: Chromolume 06:23 pm EDT 08/12/22
In reply to: Mack & Mabel - reed23 04:25 pm EDT 08/12/22

And - the perspective from the pit - I got to observe Kinky Boots from the pit one performance when it toured Boston. The orchestra had the feeling of all being very separate players, some in side "rooms," everyone playing along to a click track and/or watching the conductor on tiny TV screens clipped to their music stands. (Each player had two of those monitors - one to see the conductor, the other to watch the stage.) I was observing a friend who was playing Keys 2, and I knew a few of the other locals as well - they all said that they didn't feel any palpable sense of ensemble. They just played. And yet from the house, they sounded as tight as could be. Amazing. Everything is the pit was controlled by an Aviom mixing system - with that, each player can make their own custom mixes - controlling what of each other they hear by adjusting their own headphone volumes. To hear my friend play synth, I had to be on headphones, as there was no typical keyboard amp present in the pit.

It was all very cool, technologically, but yes, quite different from the sense of musical ensemble we would all assume from "the old days" lol. But you would have no idea, sitting in the audience, that it was any different than the expected traditional way of doing things.

The other fun thing was that, with a good deal of the show being set to click track, you could sometimes hear Cyndi Lauper's voice counting the start of the clicks. :-)

My experience doing regional work in Boston is much more low-tech, but yes, those theatres that can strategically place conductor cams for the actors to see, definitely do that. Some theatres really can't do that due to their design (no place to put the monitors where they wouldn't be way too visible to the audience), so sometimes it's just the band behind the set and a lot of rehearsal and trust. (And ways to set "secret" counts or stage cues that help to sync with the music.) But yes, conductor cams are very much the thing now. (When I do my shows for Emerson College at the Cutler Majestic Theatre, there are monitors hung on either side of the mezzanine area for the cast to see. I refer to the whole thing as "Jon cam." :-)

But even in the old days, there were experiments. I believe the orchestra for the original "Of Thee I Sing" (1931) had the orchestra on a different floor of the theatre, with the sound broadcast into the space. There was also the gargantuan 1937 Kurt Weill piece "Der Weg der Verheissung" (now sometimes known as "The Eternal Road") where the orchestra pit in the Manhattan Opera House was used as part of the gigantic set, so the orchestra was mostly pre-recorded (using the technology used for film soundtracks) with a few live musicians added. Hard to imagine that technology back then lol.
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