Buena Vista Social Club is playing at The Atlantic Theatre through 28 January 2024
USA - A combination of Holoplot’s sound control capabilities and creative sound design by Jonathan Deans let the vocals shine for this new off-Broadway production. Based on the true story of the legendary Cuban ensemble, Buena Vista Social Club (BVSC) brings the 1966 Grammy-winning album to the Atlantic Theatre Company.
Produced by Cuban American playwright Marco Ramirez, the show debuted mid-December at the Linda Gross Theatre and has received rave reviews. Sound designer Jonathan Deans, known for work on Broadway hits and Cirque du Soleil productions, collaborated with music supervisor Dean Sharenow and director Saheem Ali to create the auditory experience, with global technology provider PRG furnishing a comprehensive audio and lighting solution for the production, including the first Holoplot X1 system to grace a musical theatre production.
Working with a new team and venue, Deans aim was to gain both a deep understanding and respect of the music's origins, blending this with his expertise in theatre sound design to create a cohesive audio experience.
“My role is to take the musical ideas, performance ideas, and actors, and put it into some kind of shape and structure for the audience to respond to,” Deans says. “I specify the equipment, make it work for the production, and work with everyone involved.”
The Atlantic Theatre is a converted church, with architecture that poses acoustic challenges. “The theatre itself has undergone significant modifications to become a delightful space for any show,” continues Deans. “However, accommodating live percussion instruments on stage, including congas, bongos, and timbales, sometimes just six feet away from the audience, means it inevitably gets loud. The one thing that I was very concerned about was the vocal presence of the actors.”
Deans needed precise audio control over the seating area, with vocal clarity amid live percussion being his main priority, which is why he specified Holoplot. “I’d been watching, learning, and going to the demos from Holoplot for some time and arranged for us to see if they could shape and create localisation that was available within the coverage of the whole seating area.”
“Holoplot has a different approach to line array and point source speaker coverage that’s very successful for treating our vocals in this very tight space and, potentially, very loud situation,” Deans notes. “Our audience is a full demographic, so we can't just turn it up; We wanted to make sure that we had the best coverage and the highest level of control. So, I reached out to Holoplot to see if they could make their system work in a theatre environment.”
Reese Kirsh, segment manager of performing arts and live at Holoplot, explains the system setup: "A single central mono cluster of three X1 modules is configured horizontally, and exclusively designated for vocal reinforcement. Jonathan opted to trial Holoplot in this way due to the theatre's compact size and the steeply raked seating, employing Holoplot 3D Audio-Beamforming to minimise space requirements. Three beams are formed from the cluster - one optimised coverage beam covers the entire audience area, while two further beams function as virtual sources placed behind and alongside the array, delivering stereo ensemble vocals.
“This approach produces subtle yet impactful results. The system design creates space within the mix, letting the vocals shine within a complex musical arrangement. It's a unique concept for a traditional mono cluster and something no other system could achieve."
Deans acknowledges PRG's pivotal role, ensuring the availability and suitability of equipment within budgets and timelines. “PRG not only supplied all requested equipment but also provided essential support. They always adapt to the needs of the built environment, supporting designers, crews, assistants, and the intricate process of assembling a show.”
“We were so excited to work with Jonathan Deans and the team from the Atlantic Theatre Company to bring the first theatrical application of Holoplot to life,” said Alex Donnelly, VP and general manager, theatre at PRG. “In the last 18 months, PRG has redoubled its commitment to the audio segment of the business with sustained investments across facility, equipment, and of course our people. This collaboration exemplifies our steadfast commitment to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the theatre and actively contributing to the realisation of our designers' ambitious visions.”

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