Sound Designer Scott Lehrer on his Audio Choices for Carousel on Broadway

by Stage Directions
Scott Lehrer and Carin Ford at Yamaha PM10 on Carousel
Scott Lehrer and Carin Ford at Yamaha PM10 on Carousel

The 2018 revival of Carousel, which started previews in February, just finished up its Broadway run at the Imperial Theatre in NYC. Rogers and Hammerstein’s 1945 classic was revived with a fully digital sound design by Scott Lehrer, whose design was nominated for a Tony Award.

There’s a lot of music in Carousel, from “If I Loved You” to the vocal challenge of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, with 34 actors on stage and a fully acoustic—no electronic instruments—orchestra of 26. Sound design for the musical played a crucial role and was made possible by Lehrer’s technical expertise. Lehrer’s associate sound designer was Alex Neumann and the A1 for the show was Carin Ford.

Classic Sound
“With a new orchestration by Jonathan Tunick, who wanted to keep the traditional musical values of the show, we worked a lot on the way the orchestrations should sound which was partially the reason we chose the Yamaha PM10 digital audio console that became instrumental in allowing this to happen,” states Lehrer. He was the first sound designer on Broadway to use the Yamaha Rivage PM10 console.

Lehrer said the nature of Carousel is a classic Broadway musical that doesn’t require a lot of crazy programming and bells and whistles, “The needs for this show aren’t technically very large,” says Lehrer who has committed to using the Yamaha console on at least one or two of his shows and national tours this fall.

“For traditional revivals, I try to have a fairly transparent sound system, meaning that the audience isn’t aware of the reinforcement; so, we typically use high quality Sennheiser wireless mics and receivers, and on the speaker side d&b Audioteknik,” Lehrer said. A1 Ford mixes the 40 Sennheiser SK3732 wireless mics through a Timax Soundhub to a full d&b audiotechnik rig featuring Y8 Line Arrays, V7 Point Source Boxes, and E Series Surrounds.

Lehrer comments that, “I have used a Yamaha CL console for smaller productions, but there are things about the PM10 I love that make me want to use it again like the Premium plug-ins that allow me to do what I can’t do on other manufacturers’ consoles that do not have the same on-board capabilities. For example, I can have a lot of control shaping signals on inputs. I love plug-ins and use them on all channels. It makes a big difference, and I knew from the CL audio quality, the PM10 was only going to be better. The mic preamps, A/D converters and processors are a good solution for me.”

Solid Performance
Lehrer sights the Yamaha reliability factor of utmost importance. “They are the most reliable consoles I’ve ever used. So, the combination of reliability and the audio quality, on-board Premium effects, and plug ins: compressors, EQ, and reverbs, less outboard gear less and less possibility for failure, just makes the package a lot cleaner. I am super happy about how the show sounds. It’s that combination of the right console, the right microphones, and the right speakers.”

Ford has been mixing the show on the PM10. Her familiarity with Yamaha was mixing on a PM5D for Finian’s Rainbow, another of Scott Lehrer’s designs. “A good Broadway mixer gets around digital consoles fairly quickly," notes Lehrer, and Ford ultimately found the PM10 pretty ergonomic and intuitive to get around. "Consoles are so complicated," Lehrer continues; "there are so many layers of software to go through, that add even more layers of complexity. But, we are also trying to make things certainly less complicated and easier to do.” Sound Associates (NY) provided the audio equipment including the PM10 for Carousel as well as supplying the digital Clear-Com Helix and FreeSpeak wireless communication system and full HD CCTV backstage video as part of their package.

Balancing Act
Every radio mic comes in digitally using two Premium plug-ins, an LA2 compressor, and 2-band dynamic equalizer, and Pultec equalizers on some channels. The show is using upwards of 40 channels with Premium plugs in, and also using the on-board tc VCC reverbs. The PM10’s SILK feature is used on the orchestra channels to liven things up and makes rich instruments sound even richer when using the Blue SILK, and smoother on high end using the Red SILK. Also, the console’s DCAs are used for many scenes that change a lot during the show, very typical of Broadway shows.

The other point Lehrer makes about the PM10 is working with TWINLane and getting all the digital signals around via Dante. “It’s an interesting new way of working; we’re using TWINLane as the highway and then sending through to Dante and in some cases, MADI, which works well for us.” Lehrer also credits his associate designer Alex Neumann for keeping all the technical aspects running smoothly.

Lehrer has committed to using PM10s on his upcoming tours of Hello Dolly and Fiddler on the Roof this fall as well as using a PM7 on the new play To Kill a Mockingbird coming to Broadway.