Photo: Resident sound designer Robert Gilmartin (left) and sound engineer James Guess at The Marriott Theatre's new DiGiCo SD7T console (photo credit: Sara Bill)
The Marriott Theatre in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnshire is the most subscribed musical theatre company in the US, and a new DiGiCo SD7T console is ensuring that its sound is every bit as top rate as the shows that are produced there year-round.
Founded in 1975, The Marriott Theatre sells more than 400,000 tickets a year and has presented more than 165 productions to an estimated eight million people. The venue has received a record 500 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations – Chicago's highest theatrical honor for artistic achievement.
In addition to the steady stream of musicals that run eight-to-ten weeks each, the company also periodically produces children's productions in the morning as well as special events, such as concerts from a popular Beatles tribute band. The stage setup is a theatre in-the-round, which sometimes revolves depending upon the production.
Robert Gilmartin, The Marriott Theatre's resident sound designer, decided that the SD7T would be best for the venue's needs after conducting research and consulting with other theatrical sound designers and engineers. "We needed something dependable, reliable and multifunction," explains Gilmartin, who recently made the transition from analog to digital with the new DiGiCo desk supplied by TC Furlong Inc. of nearby Lake Forest, IL.
"Marriott's Lincolnshire theatre has always counted on superior audio quality, flexibility and ultra reliability for all equipment acquisitions," says TC Furlong of his company's long-time client. "DiGiCo punched all three tickets with the SD7T."
Gilmartin notes that the console performed flawlessly throughout the entire run of its first 2014/2015 season production, the classic On The Town, which ran from August 13 through October 12. The engineer partly attributes the show's success to the full month he had to become familiar with the console in the theatre's rehearsal space before opening night.
"It's been very smooth; all the preparation and testing really helped," he explains, adding that Group One Limited's Matt Larson and theatrical audio consultant Zac Jac Duax spent a productive training day that brought Gilmartin up to speed with the hardware and software.
In addition to requiring a console that could enable a complex theatrical show to be quickly programmed both online and offline, Gilmartin needed a highly capable cast management solution. With singing casts of as many as 32 actors on stage, having enough input channels to accommodate everything was absolutely mission-critical. The SD7T boasts up to 253 input channels, making it something of a theatrical sound designer and engineer's dream machine.
"Everybody is mic-ed," says Gilmartin, noting the need for multiple tracks on the console. "We mix manually by hand and bring up one at a time - depending upon who on stage is singing or speaking - which cleans up the audio." He adds that the SD7T makes it easy for the engineer "to be fast with his fingers" well in advance of each cue.
The orchestra, comprising eight to ten musicians, is located in an enclosed room in back of one of the theatre's four sections. A glass wall gives the conductor a clear view of the stage.
The SD7T replaced the house's incumbent all-analog gear - a large console and two side boards, which had been used for special effects and sub mixing. Gilmartin, who has been at the theatre since 2007 - initially as the in-house engineer and promoted soon thereafter to sound designer - is also pleased with the abundance of outputs that the SD7T provides (128 busses plus 32 Matrix busses).
Gilmartin says the best compliment about the capital expenditure came from a gleeful Terry James, The Marriott Theatre's Executive Producer. Following On The Town's opening night after a stellar performance, "Terry said, 'I forgot all about the new board.'"
For smaller productions and performing arts centers, DiGiCo additionally offers the SD10 and SD9T, both of which deliver the same audio performance and similar feature set to the SD7T.
For a complete list of The Marriott Theatre's upcoming performances, visit www.marriotttheatre.com.
TC Furlong Inc. specializes in live sound rentals and sales for the performance industry. For more info, visit www.tcfurlong.com.