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Yamaha consoles ensure that life’s no drag for London production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Jun, 2009

Taking a wildly successful Australian film about two drag queens and a transsexual driving across the Australian outback in a bus, including 25 big show songs and taking it to the stage is a challenge definitely not for the faint hearted. But with Priscilla Queen of the Desert - The Musical, this is exactly what production company Back Row productions has achieved. Receiving rave reviews, Yamaha digital consoles are helping to ensure that Priscilla is also queen of the London stage.

Award-winning sound designer Michael Waters is long-term user of Yamaha consoles and, for the run at London’s Palace Theatre switched to a PM1D from the PM5D he specified for the stage show’s original Australian run.

“My first mixing was done on an M916 in the mid 1980s, progressing to the PM2000, M2800, PM3000, PM4000, PM5000 and many more from the 01V to the PM1D/PM5D,” says Michael.

“I even mixed monitors for acts like The Damned and Isaac Hayes on an M2408 and M3210!”

He continues, “Moving Priscilla to the Palace Theatre required many more inputs and outputs than we used on the Australian shows, so moving to the PM1D was necessary. I was invited to use other consoles, but I’ve always stuck with Yamaha because of the reliability. I knew exactly what expect from the PM1D and knew that I could replicate the show with ease.”

The show features 32 radio mic inputs and 40 band inputs via Yamaha LMY2-MLAB interface cards, four local playback inputs and eight channels of inputs from a Stage Research SFX effects system via MY8 interface cards.

On the output side, there are 43 mix buss and 24 matrix outputs, plus feds to a Yamaha M7CL console (which in turn feeds an Aviom system for band monitoring) on/offstage foldback and two channels which control an wireless special effects speaker system mounted in the bus onstage. With the exception of a Dolby Lake Processor on the vocal buss, all effects and dynamics processing are done from within the PM1D.

“The biggest challenge of this show is that it’s so dynamic,” says Michael. “It goes from quiet dialogue scenes straight to big pop music numbers, so being able to tailor the vocal EQ or alter speaker zone EQ from scene to scene was incredibly important.”

The show uses around 75 scenes with most of the mixing done from the console’s DCAs.

“All cast mics and any featured band channels are sent to DCAs, depending on the song or scene,” says Michael. “But I really like having a lot of faders visible and easily reachable on the control surface without having to frequently search through multiple banks or layers.”

He adds, “The PM1D is performing exceptionally well on the show. The onboard processing is very usable, which means I need next to no outboard equipment. Being able to digitally interface with the Dolby processor and then through a lot of the amplifiers means that I’ve been able to stay in the digital domain almost throughout the entire output chain.

“We’ve had some great comments about the sound of the show and, with such a small footprint, I can also give back more seats to the producers to sell. That is very important for a show which is in such high demand.”

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