NILES, Ill., May 8, 2014—In 1967, Janis Joplin exploded onto the music scene and almost overnight, became what many consider to be the queen of rock ‘n’ roll. Joplin’s voice, filled with raw emotion and tinged with Southern Comfort, made her a must-see headliner. Recently, thousands of fans relived her musical journey through a Broadway show, A Night with Janis Joplin.
A two-hour musical extravaganza featuring non-stop powerful vocals, A Night with Janis Joplin was an intricate show that demanded wireless coverage across the stage. Responsible for the musical’s sound design was Carl Casella of Sound Associates, a premier audio/video system design and integration company that specializes in Broadway programs. Up against Manhattan’s densely-populated spectrum, Casella was challenged to find a wireless microphone system with extremely efficient RF performance. He went with an all-Shure approach.
“Before Joplin hit Broadway, the show toured across the U.S., where I headed up the sound design,” said Casella. “Traveling on the road meant we needed gear that could survive the wear and tear of a tour. It also required a system that delivered pristine audio over a clean frequency every time we changed venues. I opted for Shure ULXD4D Dual Channel Digital Wireless Receivers, which allowed me to fit 16 channels into a small amount of spectrum.”
Casella’s experience with ULX-D® on the road led him to using the system on Broadway.“Because we had zero problems using ULX-D—even in crowded RF cities such as Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Portland, Ore.—it was a no-brainer to again use it for the reoccurring musical in NYC, where finding available spectrum can be very challenging,” he added.
Rugged, lightweight, and compact, each ULXD4D unit housed two independent receivers, each with its own audio and RF meters, gain control, and receiver outputs that can be either direct or summed for flexible signal routing. Casella paired the receivers with a combination of handhelds and guitar mics. Mary Bridget Davies and Kacee Clanton, who alternated the Joplin role, relied on Shure handheld wireless transmitters.
In addition to its RF signal stability, Casella noticed substantial savings by using ULX-D’s rechargeable batteries. “ULX-D is not only competitively priced for the suite of features and benefits it offers, the system’s rechargeable batteries have become a huge money saver,” noted Casella. “Even if you think lithiums are more expensive up-front, they are much more cost-effective when you break it down. You can also be green—not having to throw away hundreds of batteries.”
The power lockout is also a ULX-D feature that benefited A Night with Janis Joplin. Casella comments, “I love the actors, but there were a lot of handhelds being passed around the stage, and it was often easy to shut off the mic by accident—potentially causing an unhappy audience and a headache I didn’t want to deal with. Using the lockout feature, I could control when mics go on and off.”
During its time on Broadway, there were several hundred Joplin performances. By incorporating Shure ULX-D Digital Wireless Systems, Casella and his team could confidently manage the musical’s audio, night after night.
“Whether the cast was singing the unforgettable ‘Piece of My Heart’ or ‘Summertime,’ I knew the Shure wireless mics would perform without a hitch,” said Casella. “The [ULX-D] system is flawless. It’s the only wireless gear I used on the show.”