d&b, Disney and Denmark
“We didn’t want somebody just to make a carbon copy of our original production. We wanted a truly creative team who were great working with new material and who could bring something really special to the stage.” The director of the Disney Theatrical Group, Stephen Crocker is crystal clear about the requisites required to stage the first ever European production of Disney’s Aladdin: The Musical. So where did Disney choose for this ground breaking premiere? Berlin? Paris? Amsterdam? Copenhagen? Well, you would be wrong on all counts; welcome to Fredericia, a provincial town on the Jutland Peninsula in Denmark, midway between the ferry port of Esbjerg and the city of Odense in the east.
A long time fan of d&b audiotechnik loudspeaker systems, the Fredericia Theater returned to local distributors Alpha Audio only two years ago to update their C-Series system to a Q-Series, as the Theater’s house sound designer, Tim Andreasen explains, “I have been a big fan of d&b loudspeakers for a long time. Quality of sound is, absolutely, always our main focus. As a theatre that concentrates on musical theatre we must have a system that sounds great in any dynamic range or level. When replacing the old system it was the Q-Series that had the size and the sound we were looking for. I have played so many gigs on that system and knew that it was the right choice.
With an updated PA system installed, Fredericia Theater’s Creative Producer and Managing Director, Søren Møller set about developing the artistic and creative profile of the venue as Andreasen recalls: “Since Søren Møller started leading the theater two years ago, all our focus has been on producing new, creatively fresh material. Møller himself elaborates, “We have strong connections with the Danish Academy of Musical Theatre and the New Works Development Centre Uterus here in Fredericia. We only produce new, original musicals and I think it was that reputation for creative sensibility that prompted Disney Theatricals in New York to contact us. After a long interview they offered us the European premiere of Aladdin, giving us full freedom in artistic and creative design. They simply gave us a script and a score and left the rest up to us, including the sound design.”
When the time came to make the sound design for Aladdin, Andreasen returned to Lars Frederiksen at Alfa Audio and d&b audiotechnik: “Lars is always the man I call when I get ideas of changing, adding or trying something different. The installed Q-Series system is a left and right array plus a small centre cluster for the balcony and fill for just downstage of the front of stage. For Aladdin, I decided to do the mix as 5.1 so needed a ‘proper’ centre just to handle the vocals and sound effects. That gave me more headroom in the vocals whilst still being able to maintain a good level to the music. The Q-SUBS are the main subwoofers for this production, they provide the punch just the way I like it and the J-SUBS are simply brilliant for the low frequency effects, whether it is in boosting the low end in the orchestra or in the massive sound effects.”
All rooms have their acoustic nuances and the Fredericia is no exception, “We are limited as to where we can place the main loudspeaker system”, comments Andreasen. “There is some resonance in the low end around 60 Hz and a lot at 200 Hz, because the main loudspeakers are placed in a corner. We had talked about a centre cluster when they originally purchased the Q-Series system,” adds Frederiksen. “Before Aladdin, the theatre asked if we thought it would be a good idea with a full centre cluster and I recommended that“.
As FOH engineer, Andreasen is obviously enjoying the dynamism of the Q-Series, “Audiences seem to be a bit more critical when they see a theatre show rather than a rock concert, after all hearing every word of the lyrics is important to the whole experience. But, once you feel confident in delivering that safely, well it’s time to bring the music up. A production like this is allowed to feel like a concert sometimes, and sometimes in a completely different way!”
Møller is confident this will be a springboard to even more surprises, “This production is the result of twelve years work and the start of something new here in Denmark. I hope the Fredericia can be a hub where we develop new original works and also the future of sound design, along with lighting, animation and a few other things.
Photographs courtesy of Søren Malmose.