Tuesday, July 11, 2000
Broadway’s “Riverdance” Steps a Little Livlier With Electro-Voice Loudspeakers; X-Array, Xi and Sx Series of Speakers Kick Off Irish Dance Troupe’s Extended Broadway Run
Thundering across the boards in a strict formation with bodies rigid, feet cracking and legs scissor-kicking is how The Riverdance Irish Dance Troupe takes the stage at the Gershwin Theatre every night for eight shows a week. And for its first run on the Great White Way, the heart-stopping sights and sounds of the Irish dancing phenomenon is getting a step up from Electro-Voice’s X-Array, Xi- and Sx-Series of loudspeakers.
From its origins at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest as a seven-minute interval piece, “Riverdance” has become a global sensation. “Riverdance – on Broadway” opened in March 2000 to rave reviews citing the amazing footwork of the principal dancers – Pat Roddy and Eileen Martin, Bill Whelan’s vibrant music and vocals from the “Riverdance” and Amanzi Singers. So to ensure every acoustic demand was met, the producers turned to EV and Bruce “Slim” Judd, project manager of Mt. Prospect, IL based-dB Sound, for the theatrical installation.
“A Broadway installation is different from other venues, because you have to work with many other theatrical elements: set pieces, lighting-then sound,” explains Slim of the 7-day gear installation that found his crew running hundreds of feet of wire through the walls to keep cables out of sight. Now, unless the house lights are up the cables and the speakers are virtually unnoticeable. “Even though we hemmed and hawed about speakers under the stage and the placement of the surround speakers, it was critical to get the left-center-right configuration up and working for the rest of the production.”
At the Gershwin Theatre for an extended run, “Riverdance” is considered a permanent installation. Using the X-Array touring system gave Slim the required left-center-right configuration. “We have a single column left and right with Xf’s on top for a far-throw, a couple of Xb’s for bass and then an Xcn on the bottom for near-throw. The center has a pair of Xcb’s and Xcn’s for a downward throw.” Slim continues, “On center stage there is a triangular-shaped stage entrance with a set of steps. We snuck in a pair of Xi-1152s, which has a two-way LF/HF system. It’s the perfect short-throw compact.”
In the house, dB Sound installed the Xi-1082 underbalcony compact 8-inch woofer, in addition to 20 Sx300s. “We used 10 Sx300s upstairs and 10 downstairs,” Slim explains. “These speakers are great for surround sound and they’re very reliable when put into an array.”
When the Gershwin Theatre, owned by the Nederlander Organization, opened in 1972 it was the first new Broadway theater in 40 years. Renamed in 1983 in honor of George and Ira Gershwin, its Theatre Hall of Fame in the rotunda contains the names of stage greats incised on the walls.
“It’s a good-sounding room, except for a slight abnormality on the left and right on the orchestra floor and on the far sides half-way back in the theater,” adds Slim. “It came to be known as the ski-slopes. The upper balcony extends down to make pointed sides that mask the left and right hang, creating an audio dead space. We solved the problem by putting in a couple of the X-Array cabinets underneath the balcony and time-aligning it to the main system.”
For the Broadway production of “Riverdance,” the accompanying band was divided and placed on opposite sides of the downstage proscenium. The original production had the band situated on a platform that extended into the audience, then for the second production they were moved upstage center, which cut projection. “The director felt they had missed the projection having the band so far back behind the drops,” Slim says. “To make time sense out of the imaging of where the band members are sitting, then having the tapers and singers on the center of the stage, we ran a timing device into the Midas XL4 which is our FOH console. We were then able to use that computer to trigger the image definitions that would change throughout the show.”
With the band on the stage, the orchestra pit remains vacant with the exception of four Xi-1191 subwoofers, which have an extended bass step-down to 27 Hz. “The X-Array’s sound great out of the box,” Slim says.
“Whether you’re touring or looking for something specific in a Broadway application, there’s flexibility to meet the demands of every situation.”
Riverdance also used EV equipment for its second production that toured Ireland, the UK and Europe. “Mick O’Gorman, the show’s sound designer, started using X-Array touring cabinets, Midas consoles and Klark Teknik EQs,” explains Slim. “We rely on these products pretty heavily.”
Bill Whelan’s Grammy Award winning score is naturally an integral part of the production, so the sound had to be perfect. “We needed speakers that were compatible with a left-center-right configuration,” Slim says. “Other products aren’t supported by a line of equipment as deep as Telex Communications. We had a large amount of support from all the brands. From the engineering department at EV, through Midas, Klark Teknik and Telex-they come through with really great stuff for us to use and they’ve always been responsive to our needs.”
For more information, contact Electro-Voice 1-800-667-3968.