The 76th annual Tony Awards celebration, presented by The Broadway League and the American Theater Wing, will be held on June 11 at the historic United Palace in the Washington Heights district of New York. Two productions nominated for Best Musical — New York, New York and Kimberly Akimbo — employ main reinforcement systems of Meyer Sound loudspeakers. Both systems are the work of noted sound designer Kai Harada, and his personal contribution to New York, New York is recognized by a nomination for Best Sound Design of a Musical, an award he garnered in 2018 for A Band’s Visit.
Two productions receiving Best Sound Design of a Play nominations, Life of Pi and Prima Facie, also benefit from an audio system predominantly from Meyer Sound. The respective Sound Designer nominees are Carolyn Downing and Ben & Max Ringham.
The two Tony-nominated musicals with systems designed by Harada share similarities despite significant differences in both the venue sizes and the content of the productions. To craft the ideal balance of coverage, power, and bandwidth for each show, Harada was able to draw on a broad palette of 15 different Meyer Sound loudspeakers, both current and legacy models, with nine of those models specified for both productions.
“Kimberly Akimbo is playing at the Booth Theater, a relatively small Broadway house seating around 800, while New York, New York is at the larger St. James, with a capacity of over 1700,” says Harada. “Kimberly is more of a chamber musical, with a smaller cast and smaller orchestra, but still the show’s score still requires a big dynamic range so there are a lot of loudspeakers in the space. I scaled up the same approach for New York, New York, which is a bigger and brassier dance-oriented show. Although the orchestra is in an uncovered pit — a rarity these days! — it was important to me to have a system that gave me a lot of dynamic range and complete coverage for all seating sections.”
When selecting loudspeakers for his designs, Harada places a high value on consistency. “When I spec Meyer Sound cabinets for my main PA, I know what to expect with the sound quality and coverage,” he says. “We had done Kimberly Akimbo off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theatre — also with a Meyer Sound system — so we knew what the show was, musically speaking, and had a sonic goal in mind. For New York, New York, we had done only one workshop of the show, so there were a lot more unknowns. In that case, I needed to know that the system I specified was going to sound good so that I could concentrate on all the other variables.”
Current Meyer Sound products used in both productions include the LINA very compact linear line array, ULTRA-X40 compact loudspeaker, and UPM-1P ultra-compact loudspeaker. Legacy loudspeakers used for both include M1D line arrays, UPQ-1P, UPA-2P, UPJ-1P, UPJunior, and MM-4 loudspeakers as well as the 500-HP subwoofer.
Meyer Sound’s discreet LINA line arrays are major contributors to the sound for both productions. “The LINAs just sound good, and they are small,” summarised Harada. “That makes it easy to collaborate with the visual designers to get good speaker locations because they don’t take up much space — but I still get a lot of granular control.”
His most recent favorite is the ULTRA-X40 compact loudspeaker. “It’s such a smooth-sounding box that requires so little EQ. I can’t imagine doing a show without ULTRA-X40s anymore!”
The system for Kimberly Akimbo encompasses a total of 77 full-range loudspeakers plus nine subwoofers. A total of 108 full-range loudspeakers and seven subwoofers are deployed for New York, New York. The complete audio systems for these two productions were supplied by Masque Sound of East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Other productions currently running in New York deploying Meyer Sound loudspeakers as their main systems include Tina, Monsoon Wedding, A Transparent Musical, Dancin,’ Once Upon a One More Time, and Gatsby. Major tours with Meyer Sound systems include 1776 and Les Miserables. All of these systems were supplied by Sound Associates of Yonkers, New York.