Los Angeles, CA (March 7, 2013)—Backbeat, a play about The Beatles’ rise to fame based on the acclaimed 1994 film, made its U.S. debut on January 20 in Los Angeles. According to sound designer Richard Brooker, “Backbeat is an unusual show; I don’t consider it a musical, but rather a play with live songs.” Masque Sound is the sound equipment supplier for the show.
“The dialogue is less amplified, requiring us to reinforce the actors with sound gear to ensure the audience can hear them, but then the rock ‘n’ roll music the Beatles are playing in the clubs of Hamburg is very loud,” explained Brooker. The show, playing at the Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center in Los Angeles, runs through March 11.
In order to accommodate these varying sound levels and tones, Masque Sound provided a custom audio package featuring 24 Sennheiser SK5012 mics, a DiGiCo SD10 console with Mac computers running the Q-Lab system for Sound Effect, Meyer M’elodies speakers for the main system, a Meyer M1D center cluster and Meyer UPM1P delays and front fields and Meyer 600-HP subs as well. The setup includes a large drop of M’elodies stage left and stage right and a slightly smaller drop of M’elodies on the sides covering the upper circle of the theater.
One of the challenges Brooker faced was establishing and maintaining the authentic feel of late 1950s-early 1960s Liverpool for the show. “We wanted to deliver a very raw, live sound to the music, as it would have sounded in a small European club at that time,” he says. “It wasn’t so much a sophisticated sound but rather something with raw guitar amps that were quite noisy and harsh and not as beautifully produced as music is now these days. In the sound design, I was trying to create that feel and capture that moment at that time and make it sound edgy without making it sound horrible—that was an interesting challenge. Masque Sound was instrumental in pulling this off.”
In trying to keep the show as authentic to the time period as possible, the show also used vintage guitar amplifiers and some slightly non-traditional microphones for vocals. “Since it is very difficult to get a hold of the actual equipment that was used back in the 1950s and 1960s, that was a fairly unique challenge for this show. Masque Sound was once again extremely helpful in coming up with creative solutions to help overcome that issue.”
Brooker says he wouldn’t be able to accomplish what he did on Backbeat without the people who worked with him to implement his ideas and designs into the show. “My associate sound designer, Poti Martin, and production sound engineer, Raf Rutgeerts, do a fantastic job. Also, the support of Masque is incredible.”