Sister Act rocks in Brazil with L-Acoustics
May 2015 - Following its successful cinema release, Sister Act moved seamlessly to the theatre, with production company Stage Entertainment enjoying successful runs in London’s West End and on Broadway. The touring production has been just as well received, with long runs in North America, France, Spain and the Netherlands. It is Sister Act’s ability to translate not only into different languages, but cultures that is part of its magic formula. Its latest home is the Renault Theatre in Brazil’s Sao Paulo, where it is proving itself once again.
Olivier Award winning sound designer Gareth Owen has been involved in a large number of Sister Act productions. “I started off working on the UK tour in 2001 and just carried on from there,” he smiles. “It’s a heavily complicated show and the programming of it is really complex, so we try to use as much of the same kit as we can on each run.”
However, Gareth decided to try something a bit different in Brazil.
“Sister Act is fast, furious and funny, but it’s also very rock n’ roll,” he says. “The thing that makes Sister Act Brazil different from the other productions I've worked on is the use of an L-Acoustics loudspeaker system.”
Gareth experienced L-Acoustics’ K1 extensively during his days working in the rock ‘n roll industry. “I feel it has an inherent ‘rockness’ to it, which I really like, but this is my first time using an L-Acoustics system in theatre,” he says. “We wanted to try something a bit different here and it’s been a good experience. I have a great, long standing relationship with Miles Hillyard at SSE and, along with my associate sound designer Russell Godwin and system tech Chris Mace, he really helped us get the set up right for Sister Act.”
Gareth’s approach to theatre audio differs from what is considered the norm. “It used to be good if no one mentioned the sound, but I think the world of theatre sound design is changing massively,” he explains. “For a long time it’s been about sound being invisible, but I’m very much from a new school of thought. Today’s modern audience has iPods, cinema systems, cars with 10 speakers in them, they go to the movies and watch films with scores that hit you in the chest and spin around the room. Then we go to the theatre and try to pretend that there’s no amplification.
“That’s not in keeping with the way the rest of the world has moved on. So I’ve adopted a very cinematic approach to sound design. I don’t try to pretend that the show isn’t amplified, I just try to make sure that the amplification is constructive.” His fourth Olivier Award nomination in five years suggests he’s got it right.
The Renault Theatre holds around 3,000 people, so Gareth and his team decided that L-Acoustics Kara, supplied by L-Acoustics Certified Provider Loudness Sonorização, was the ideal system. He specified Kara and Kiva cabinets, with the main arrays comprising 16 Kara per side, another two hangs of six Kara as centre clusters, plus Kiva for outfills. Twelve SB18 subs are hung in the roof, with a further six SB18s on the floor, which achieves the desired coverage and delivers the rock n’ roll quality he was after.
“We found our own operators, but the installation, maintenance and day to day looking after of the equipment is done by Loudness. And I have to say they have done an exceptionally good job. Fernando Fortes in particular was absolutely fabulous.
“We’ve had lots of very positive feedback and the audio has even been mentioned in reviews in the local press. If the opportunity to use L-Acoustics comes up again, I wouldn’t think twice.”