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L-Acoustics powers acclaimed Broadway musical The Outsiders

L-Acoustics L Series and L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal combine to create the moody world of The Outsiders, on Broadway, in New York. The show has been nominated for multiple awards

Immersive L-ISA technology and the New York City Theatre District’s first L-Acoustics L Series loudspeaker deployment, are powering a Broadway musical version of S.E. Hinton’s 1967 coming-of-age novel, The Outsiders. The novel was famously made into a film in the 1980s by Francis Ford Coppola with a cast full of young actors that would go on to become Hollywood A-listers.

Now The Outsiders is being reimagined again as a musical, already nominated for 12 Tony Awards. It is at Broadway’s Jacobs Theatre, once a vaudeville venue designed to project unamplified speech and music. To improve the indifferent audio quality, sound designer Cody Spencer and his team, including L-ISA programmer Stephen Jensen, production audio lead Mike Tracy, and front-of-house engineer Heather Augustine, went all in on immersive sound and L-ISA technology.

Spencer explained: “Using L-ISA, we’re able to get people feeling the sound from all around them at all times. Early on in the show, for instance, our lead character gets kicked in the face, and you can hear the kick, but then you also hear his ears ringing — not just in front of you but all around you. Those kinds of effects help to make you feel like you’re actually part of his world.”

The frontal array of the system, for orchestra and front mezzanine seating, comprises five Scene hangs of the new long-throw L-Acoustics L2D arrays, spaced across the top of the proscenium. Two centrally flown sub arrays of three KS21 each are bolstered by two more KS21 positioned left and right, under the stage. The balcony delay system features five Scene arrays of two A15 Focus flanking Extension arrays of two A15 Wide.

Seven spatialised X8 mounted across the face of the stage serve as front-fills for main-floor seats, and various combinations of X12, X8, and 5XT are deployed as other fills, as needed. A combination of LA7.16, LA12X, and LA4X amplified controllers drive the system.

“We also have a row of compact 5XT speakers for the middle of the orchestra that helps get the high end to the very front of the overhang,” he said. “And then another row of X8 as spatial fills to fill in the back of the orchestra underneath the overhang.” The main system’s surround arrays utilise a combination of X8 and A10 enclosures, while the balcony surrounds are four Syva, deployed two per side, he adds.

“The monitoring system on stage for this show is bigger than most entire house PA systems in typical Broadway theatres,” Spencer adds, pointing out that it comprises six X12 flown three per side as stage side-fills, six X12 in two rows of three as overheads, ten X4i spread across stage lip firing stage-ward, for downstage-fill, one X8 on each side of the proscenium arch firing toward centre-stage as proscenium fills, and a dozen 5XT in two rows of six as under-platform monitors.

“We wanted to ensure that everyone — not only out in the house but also up on the stage — would be able to hear every single word crystal-clear to best create intimacy, emotion, and connection,” he added. “We extensively covered the stage to make sure that wherever the actors were, we could turn up various voices or instruments in specific locations to give them exactly what they needed in those positions.”

The system has some unique design aspects. For instance, Augustine’s monitoring array at FOH is its own mini-immersive environment. “She’s in the middle of the house mixing on X8 spatial fills that are right in front of her, and then for surround, she’s got more X8 around her to the sides and behind,” Cody explained. “It mimics the larger arrays that the audience is hearing.”

The sound system is managed by a redundant pair of L-ISA Processor II, and the entire setup relies on Milan-AVB for networked routing, which has “been a real lifesaver,” says Spencer.

Spencer says that L-Acoustics Soundvision design and prediction software was critical in defining the boundaries of coverage, keeping energy away from reflective surfaces and on the audience in every seating area. “It’s a lot of trial and error with these big old vaudeville houses, because before there was amplification, they just spoke loudly, and you could hear them everywhere — and that’s very counterintuitive to what we do with loudspeakers.”