Here Lies Love, Broadway Theatre
L‑ISA Makes its Debut at the Broadway Theatre in David Byrne’s Here Lies Love
Described as an untraditional disco-pop musical, Here Lies Love is a colorful narration of the life of former Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos. The production, supported by an all-Filipino cast, is filtered through a disco ball lens and tells the story of Imelda’s early years, then becoming the wife of the president-turned-dictator of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos. “Talking Heads” frontman David Byrne, who collaborated with Fatboy Slim on the show’s disco-pop score, penned its music and lyrics, which in sing-song style, depict Imelda’s decadent lifestyle and bejeweled nights on the town, starkly contrasting against the Philippines’ widespread poverty. Notorious for her callous spending (including a lavish wardrobe with an infamous 3,000 pairs of shoes) and jet-setting lifestyle, Imelda ruled alongside her husband until they were airlifted out of the country in 1986 following two decades of corruption, scandal, and human rights abuses.
Since Here Lies Love is a technical beast of a production seeking to awe and provoke emotion throughout its 90-minute runtime, it required a sound setup that would be able to move with the performers as they bounded across the sets. The first of its kind on many fronts, the show is a flutter of movement, dances, and splashing lights as wheeled stages are moved into different configurations around the main floor, masterminded by Set Designer David Korins. Teams of ushers outfitted in pink jumpsuits and iridescent glittery makeup use glow stick batons to move the floor audience around the reconstructed Broadway Theater as the platform stages literally move with the story. All the while, cast members weave through the crowd to perform dramatic anthems and theatrical dance-offs. Matching ambient lighting by Justin Townsend sets the production aglow with bubblegum pinks and cerulean blues. Because of this flutter of movement, the team called upon the immersive object-based mixing abilities of L-ISA.
L-ISA was chosen for its immersive sound capabilities so the team could provide the same enveloping experience no matter where the audience is. With six different zones, the sound team can control those areas with two L-ISA Processors, which are running in tandem. One L-ISA Processor does the dance floor’s 360-degree sound, and the other controls the frontal system, which is the voices in the front with surrounds.
The Broadway Theatre’s current L-ISA installation boasts over 220 speakers in a full surround configuration to bring all of the drama and excitement of the poignant story to each audience member. The fully immersive dance floor area is covered by 14 L-Acoustics A Series arrays: three hangs of one A15 Focus over two A15 Wide are flown above the two short ends of the rectangular floor space, while four hangs of two A10 Wide line each of the long sides of the floor. Runway fill is supplied by two centrally flown arrays of A10 Wide, with a pair of X8 providing additional fill when the axis of the runway is rotated 90 degrees. A ring of 16 compact 5XT dots the perimeter of the actor walkways surrounding the dancefloor to provide additional localized fill.
In the traditional theater audience seating area upstairs, three more A Series arrays—each comprised of four A15 or A10—hang over the first mezzanine in an LCR arrangement while three arrays of seven Kara II cover the larger rear mezzanine. A variety of X12, X8, and X4i enclosures provide fill for other locations, including the gallery seating areas, while two dozen KS21 subs distributed around the room solidly anchor the system’s club-like low end. A total of 50 LA4X amplified controllers, all fed via Milan AVB, drive the system. The AVB feed comes from a MADI output converted from the show’s DiGiCo Quantum7T mixing console found in the house mix bunker located just under the DJ station.
According to the sound team, L-ISA helped those up in the mezzanines experience the sound going around them and not just in front of them. With most theatrical experiences, the sound is only in front of the audience. Here Lies Love is a unique show in which the audience blends with the performers; it can be experienced from the dance floor, from seats around the dance floor, or seated in a traditional setting. With L-ISA, the audience, regardless of where they were seated or standing, was able to follow the flow of the singers and performers. David Byrne speaks directly about the sound, “There’s a number of points of the show where the actors—the singers—are in different positions during the same song. Imelda is on a platform,” Byrne raises one hand high up to his right, “and Marcos is in a hospital bed,” he outstretches his left hand and lowers it to show the juxtaposed position of the actors. “And he sings… and she responds.” And throughout this, the audience can hear where those voices are coming from.
Huffington Post has quoted, “Thanks to an innovative set design by David Korins and the use of L-ISA, a state-of-the-art form of spatial sound technology produced by French audio manufacturer L-Acoustics, [Arielle Jacobs is] able to sing and dance her way beyond the Broadway Theatre’s stage and onto its mezzanine and balcony.”
L-ISA spatial audio gives us the tools we need to quickly and efficiently program a 360-degree experience that conveys the excitement and nuance of each musical moment in the show. On Here Lies Love, whether you’re standing on the floor or you’re sitting up in the mezzanine, you’re really feeling like you’re encompassed, and you’re part of the show as opposed to ‘there’s a proscenium here, and I’m watching the show that’s down there.’ I am so excited for people to experience the sound of this show; I am confident this is just the beginning of L-ISA on Broadway.