News Business

Orbital Sound celebrates a decade of decadence with Chicago The Musical

test 18 December 2007

UK: A stellar line up of past performers, including Denise Van Outen, Ute Lemper, Tony Hadley and Nigel Planer, appeared on stage at London’s Cambridge Theatre for an early December, one-night-only gala celebration of Chicago the Musical. The multi-award winning, global musical success has been running for ten years in the West End – and that means a ten-year involvement with theatre sound specialist Orbital Sound. Chris Headlam, Orbital’s managing director, freely admits that Chicago has made a major contribution to his company’s longevity, writes Dave Robinson.

Over the years, Orbital has worked closely with the show’s appointed UK sound designer Rick Clarke to deliver this dazzling Kandor & Ebb spectacle to audiences at the Adelphi Theatre (for nine years) and now the Cambridge.

While the key design elements of the show have remained consistent (and based around a 14-piece band on stage), the advent of digital solutions and the potential impact of Ofcom’s spectrum auction have made their mark.

The gala performance was a particular challenge in that there were an additional 40 cast members, including celebrity appearances by the likes of Bonnie Langford, Gaby Roslin and Duncan James (ex-Blue singer), and many of the original 1997 cast including Ruthie Henshall and Henry Goodman. Newsreader and presenter Fiona Bruce even dropped in to perform a brief cameo.

In order to cope with the additional voices, Clarke deployed the new Zaxcom digital system for the first time. Running alongside the Trantec S6000 system, it proved “invaluable”, he says. Remote control of the transmitter’s gain is achieved through a separate 2.4GHz RF link, unique to Zaxcom. Now the London production is planning to upgrade all the radio mics to Zaxcom.

Rick Clarke, commented: “The time pressure on the day was immense so the first time we heard the Zaxcom system was at the mic check. The difference in quality was very noticeable to everyone at the sound desk, sounding very natural and clear.”

In 2006 Chicago moved to the Cambridge theatre from the Adelphi on the Strand. As a more intimate environment, the product specification took on a new look in line with contemporary demands. Clarke switched from the Amek FOH solution in favour of the PM5D-RH from Yamaha, which had been successfully deployed throughout the UK for its touring production.

Apart from being a powerful workhorse in its own right, the PM5D’s reduced footprint has created room for ten more seats.

Chicago boasts three international tours and has played in 25 countries worldwide. Having clocked up in excess of 18,000 performances, it is estimated that 19 million people have seen the show.

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