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Meyer Sound Constellation a hit for Rocky musical

Sylvester Stallone’s iconic 1976 boxing movie, Rocky, has made the unlikely transition to the musical stage in Germany. A Meyer Sound Constellation acoustic enhancement system is proving a knock-out with the producers.

Rocky – Das Musical, directed by Alex Timbers, opened at Hamburg’s 1,400 seat Operettenhaus in November last year with a budget of $20 million (€15.2 million).

The show is produced by Stage Entertainment GmbH together with Sylvester Stallone and Ukrainian boxing champions, Vitali & Wladmir Klitschko. The book is by Thomas Meehan after Stallone’s original screenplay, with music by composer Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens.

By all accounts, an idea that might not have lasted three rounds has instead lifted the trophy, with producers, critics and audiences cheering it on. Stage Entertainment has proven to be quite the force in European musical theatre, bringing The Lion King, Mamma Mia! and Tarzan(!) to mainland Europe, as well as producing Rebecca in Stuttgart last year. The operation also owns the Hamburg venue. Director Timbers told The New York Times that his goal for the production was “to combine the intimate and the epic”. The show is supported sonically through variable acoustics generated by a permanently installed Constellation acoustic system from Meyer Sound, part of a system required to deal with the Operettenhaus’ reportedly dry acoustics. “I started discussing Constellation with technical management at Stage Entertainment early in the project,” says sound designer Peter Hylenski. “As the design for the show came together, it quickly became evident that Constellation would be playing not only a technical role in enhancing room sound, but also an artistic role by providing enhanced ‘environments’ to match specific locales in the story.” According to Hylenski, the Constellation system realises a dramatic, two-fold enhancement of his sound design. “As an acoustic enhancement system, even the slightest addition seems to ‘lift the sound off the page’ by giving more depth and excitement to the room,” he says. “But we also use it as an environmental simulator. Two examples are scene where Rocky is punching sides of beef in the meat locker – using short, hard early reflections – and the final fight scene with long pre-delays to create the feeling of an arena. It’s exciting and theatrical, yet it sounds incredibly real.” The permanent Constellation system at the Operettenhaus is built around the Meyer Sound D-Mitri digital audio platform with two core processors, a core matrix unit, and nine digital and analogue I/O units. Four DVRAS modules generate early reflections and complex late reverberations in four zones. Forty-two cardioid and omni microphones pick up ambient room sound, with the variable acoustics created through 235(!) Meyer self-powered loudspeakers comprising seven different full-range and subwoofer models. The options for room variation include five reverberation times, each with three density settings, plus nine bass ratio and nine strength presets. The permanent Constellation system works hand-in-glove with the configuration that Hylenski created specifically for the production, principally twin arrays of 13 per side M’elodie line array boxes with two ground-stacked 700-HP subs under each array. Amptown System Company GmbH (ASC) of Hamburg supplied all Meyer Sound components for both the permanent Constellation and current production systems. The permanent installation of Constellation in Hamburg was made possible in part because of the unique business model of Stage Entertainment, explains Andreas Hammerich, production sound engineer and sound designer for the company. “Unlike Broadway and West End, at Stage Entertainment we both produce the shows and own the theatres,” Hammerich notes. “That means we take a long-term look at what technical investments will realise a return. And with Rocky, Constellation is already making a difference. The sound is so special that audiences walking out of the theatre cannot believe what they just experienced. It is that extraordinary.”