Mamma Mia! The Party is the latest edition of the ABBA story – an en masse Greek dining experience and cozy theatrical performance rolled into one. With over 500 covers this purpose built, supersized taverna has been enjoying its new permanent residence at The O2 in London since September 2019, after four years in Stockholm.
Set across two floors, complete with fully mobile cast and live band, not to mention a fountain, olive trees and bougainvillea, the all singing all dancing performers deliver both the food and storyline. Over the course of four hours fans become an essential part of the drama as the warm and friendly ‘waiters’ encourage diners to get off their seats, join in and be swept away.
The sound for such a dynamic production needed careful consideration. From love scenes to full chorus, the audience and cast would require the highest level of audio intelligibility to experience the arena sized venue as an intimate and highly sensory environment.
ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaeus approached three-time Olivier Award winning sound designer Gareth Owen, who specified d&b audiotechnik for the job. “d&b makes a speaker for every job and the systems complement each other perfectly,” explained Owen. “This enabled me to create even coverage and punchy sound across the entire performance area; this does justice to the main musical element of the show but equally ensures the spoken word sections are clearly heard by all.”
Ultimately the breadth of d&b systems meant Owen could pick and choose exactly the right products to realise his design. “This kind of interactive theatre really demonstrates the versatility of the d&b range. Bjorn Ulvaeus, who’s the producer of the show, was insistent that we didn’t compromise on sound quality in favour of set design, so we were able to use pretty much every small and medium box d&b make – V-Series, Y-Series, T-Series, E-Series. You name it, you’ll find it on this show.”
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d&b is known for the consistent voicing of its systems; all loudspeakers are sonically compatible regardless of size or format. With a truly comprehensive portfolio on offer, this enables the kind of pick and mix approach Owen undertook, utilising products from across the range to best suit the varying dynamics of the room. For Mamma Mia! The Party the result was threefold: clear high-quality reproduction, efficiency, and ease of use.
“The other aspect that makes using d&b so attractive to me is that the voicing of their loudspeakers is the same whether it’s a point source or line array box, small or large,” added Owen. “This means I don’t have to worry about EQ’ing the boxes to sound the same, I just have to worry about EQ’ing for the room – that’s a huge time saver.”
For Owen, the harmonious voicing of loudspeakers is key to maintaining the all-important connection between the actors and audience – no matter where they are in the room. “This is a fully immersive musical theatre show with the cast performing all over the space, pretty much always in front of the speakers. Once I’ve EQ’d the feedback out of one box, it doesn’t matter whether the actors are performing in front of a line array or point source box, small or large, we are still feedback free. This makes my life so much easier.”