Masque Sound Keeps Audiences on the Edge of Their Seats in Broadway’s Newest Suspense Thriller, Misery

Custom Audio Equipment Package Provides Sparkling Vocal Clarity And Dynamic Range for Stars Bruce Willis and Laurie Metcalf
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NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 19, 2015 — When two-time Emmy® Award- and Golden Globe®-winner Bruce Willis made his Broadway debut alongside three-time Emmy Award-winner Laurie Metcalf in Misery at New York’s Broadhurst Theatre, Sound Designer Darron L West and Associate Sound Designer Charles Coes turned to Masque Sound. The leading theatrical sound reinforcement, installation and design company provided a frighteningly good custom audio equipment package for the suspense thriller that met West’s and Coes’ requirements for delivering pristine vocal clarity. Misery began as a workshop production at the Bucks County Playhouse back in 2012, where West and Coes first collaborated with Masque Sound on the project.

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Misery follows successful romance novelist Paul Sheldon, who is rescued from a car crash by his “Number One Fan,” Annie Wilkes, and wakes up captive in her secluded home. While Paul is convalescing, Annie reads the manuscript to his newest novel and becomes enraged when she discovers the author has killed off her favorite character, Misery Chastain. Annie forces Paul to write a new “Misery” novel, and he quickly realizes Annie has no intention of letting him go anywhere. The irate Annie has Paul writing as if his life depends on it, and if he does not make her deadline, it will.

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As a classic theatrical thriller, West’s goal was to create a rig that provided sparkling vocal clarity with the headroom and the punch for the horror moments of the piece. “You need a fast and fat rig for those violin stabs that make the audience jump when you need them to,” says West. “The music, composed by Michael Friedman, is filled with strings and the only percussive elements come from the piano, so getting a sweet mid-range sound out of the rig in the room was a necessity too. Masque Sound was incredibly helpful in providing us the gear we needed and wanted. It allowed us to put together a system where we’ve got an enormous amount of dynamic range to go from the sound of breaking bones to crashing thunder.”

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Misery features a lot of movement and stage props so the biggest question faced by the designers was how to go about miking the production in order to achieve the crystal clear vocals they were looking for.  “In setting up the show, we were unsure whether to use body mics or cover the stage with area mics,” explains West. “There is so much stage combat, blood packs, etc. that putting the actors in wireless was a daunting proposal. Charles and I spec’d the system to try out both ideas so we were prepped to go in either direction. David Korins’ set really gave us an edge, as each area of the house is a well-confined space with walls and ceilings. This allowed us to hide mics everywhere throughout the set. To our collective joy, Bruce Willis got into the theater for rehearsals and really started punching his vocals out so we turned up the area mics and never looked back.  Our mixer, Walter Tillman really had to be on his game with so many sound cues and mic mixing but, it’s all gone beautifully.”

The custom PA system provided by Masque Sound has been built around d&b audiotechnik E12s and E12-Ds, and Meyer Sound 600HPs. It includes four E12’s on the proscenium for the orchestra and balcony mains. A 10 box T10 line array fills out the center cluster along with a pair of USW subs. E0’s were used for the under balcony and E8s for the over balcony along with E3s as surrounds. Because of the depth of the balcony there was a little tiny gap between the coverage of the cluster and the house under balcony position, so an extra delay line of E3s were hung as “rail fills” to make the audio as even as possible. The bottom comes from a pair of 600-HP subs off to the side in the orchestra (a position borrowed from MAMMA MIA! when it was in the Broadhurst). There are six speakers on the turntable, hidden in the set along with Meyer Sound UPA1ps for some extra punch. 

At front of house, the team is using a dual redundant QLab 3 rig into a Yamaha CL1 console via Dante with QLab taking up 19 channels and the rest for the vast array of mics. Because of the complexity of the show in playback and the speed of development in the composition, the designers had a dedicated QLab programmer during tech, which made it flow very smoothly and meant that they could keep up with fast changing music and script.

The primary area mics are DPA 4021s, which West loves and has been using for several years. Also utilized were AKG C747 shotguns, which the team previously used for Peter and The Starcatcher at New York Theater Workshop and have loved ever since. From their rig, they are also firing via MIDI Show Control (MSC) from QLab the lion-share of the lightning effects in the show that Lighting Designer David Weiner has cooked up.

Misery has been one of those dream projects where we actually got everything we asked for and the folks at Warner Theatrical were really spectacular to work with,” says Coes. “In addition, Masque Sound was wonderful to work with and came through once again. I really trust them and appreciate the support we received during this journey. I’ve done so many shows with Masque Sound that they are like family to us. They have been with us since Misery’s beginning in Bucks County so it was a treat to get to call Scott Kalata at Masque Sound and tell him that we were headed to Broadway, and we had the budget we wanted to make it happen. Also, my team did an incredible job. My Associate Charles Coes really outdid himself this time regarding the flexibility of the rig. FOH Mixer Walter Tillman, Programmer Beth Lake and Brett Diagle, and the crew at the Broadhurst were amazing. Everyone made us feel right at home. The show looks and sounds great and we are very proud of it.”

Misery officially opened in a strictly limited 16-week engagement at Broadway’s Broadhurst Theatre on Sunday, November 15. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.miserybroadway.com.

About Masque Sound

Founded in 1936 by a trio of Broadway stagehands, Masque Sound evolved into one of NYC’s most successful theatrical sound reinforcement, installation and design companies specializing in theatrical, house of worship, sporting, corporate, TV broadcast and live concert events. Celebrating more than 75 years in the industry, the company is led by the firm’s third generation owner, Geoff Shearing. The company also operates Florida-based Professional Wireless Systems, a leader in the development and implementation of wireless technology. Credits range from major Broadway shows and tours including Phantom of the Opera, MAMMA MIA!, Lion King, Jersey Boys, The Book of Mormon, Once, Kinky Boots, Aladdin and Fun Home to yearly Super Bowl broadcasts and installations of varying sizes, including Western Connecticut State University, the Jim Wise Theatre at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and the historic St. Patrick's Cathedral. Masque Sound’s 70,000 sq. ft. corporate headquarters and main assembly facility is located at 21 East Union Ave., East Rutherford, NJ, 20 minutes from midtown Manhattan. For more information, call (201) 939-8666 or visit www.MasqueSound.com.

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