Strategic Sound for Chess The Musical

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Sound Designer Richard Brooker and Southby Productions deliver excellent sound for Russian adaptation of classic musical Chess.

Written by Sir Tim Rice and legendary composers Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of Abba, Chess first opened in London’s West End in 1986 and moved to New York Broadway a few years later.

Based on true events, the story is set against a backdrop of the Cold War and follows the rivalry between two chess masters, one American and one Soviet.

The show has now been adapted for Russian Broadway and opened at the MDM Theater in Moscow this October. Some of the story’s finer details may have been changed to suit the Russian audience and reflect the 21st century constellation the world finds itself in, but the musical impact of the production is no less powerful than in its original inception.

“In my opinion Chess is one of the most amazing Musical Theater Scores ever written. It jumps between symphonic orchestral beauty to high-octane eighties pop and rock in the blink of an eye. It’s a real challenge and a real joy for any sound designer” says Richard Brooker.

I am delighted with the way that the show sounds with my choice of d&b.Richard Brooker, Sound Designer

The sound design for Chess comes almost one year on from ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’, a UK production that saw Brooker return to using d&b after a number of years of working with other manufacturers.

"‘How the Grinch stole Christmas’ made it necessary to use quite a large selection of d&b products, as the variety of venues ranged from differently sized theaters to an arena. I was delighted by the sound and my experience with d&b.”

Based on his positive experience the previous year Brooker chose the d&b V, Y and E-Series as well as B22 subwoofers to create the design for Chess.

“I decided that d&b was the way forward for this show. The sound of the boxes needed to be tonally very accurate and to be able to give a big polished rock ‘n’ roll sound whilst being able to deliver absolute orchestral dynamic and clarity. Not only that but Chess is an incredibly wordy musical and I could not accept anything other than super crisp clear warm vocals” he explains.

The theater can seat up to one thousand eight hundred people and the audience area is arranged across one level with a depth of forty meters. Brooker chose to use a V-Series line array system with a Y-Series line array center cluster to ensure all seats received the best possible sound.

Under current Russian Covid19 restrictions the theater capacity is capped at sixty-five percent, but the organizers are hopeful to be able to return to full capacity before Christmas, and Brookers design had to reflect this.

The V-Series gave me the desired punch, clarity and headroom required for a show of this massively dynamic nature and gave perfect coverage for the unusual layout of the theater.Richard Brooker

The system was supplied by UK technical event production company Southby Productions and Brooker has nothing but praise for their work: “A big thank you to the team at Southby. They delivered a beautifully prepped system. The install was overseen by their own Technical Director Digby Shaw and my Associate Sound Designer Kelsh Buckman-Drage making this a seamless and smooth experience for everyone.

I am delighted with the way that the show sounds with my choice of d&b. Shows of this scale can only work with great teamwork. We certainly had that so thank you to everyone involved.”

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