Chicago Lyric Opera taps Axient® Digital for Jesus Christ Superstar

The first North American production of the acclaimed 2016 London revival of Jesus Christ Superstar  took place at Chicago Lyric Opera for a four-week run. Billed as Lyric  Opera’s annual spring musical, this ambitious staging of the Andrew  Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock opera featured an all-star cast supported by  an operatic chorus and six-piece rock band, requiring 74 wireless  microphone channels.

Nick Lidster, sound designer from the creative team at Autograph that  staged the show’s revival in London’s Regents Park, worked with senior  sound engineer Peter Wiejaczka of OSA International to create a viable  rock-based musical within the challenging acoustical confines of the  Lyric Opera House. They opted to work with Shure Axient® Digital as the  primary wireless system for the production.

For Jesus Christ Superstar, Lyric Opera used a total of 56  channels of Axient Digital, plus 18 channels of UHF-R®. All but eight  transmitters were bodypacks. Of particular note was the inclusion of  ADX1M Micro-Bodypack transmitters, important for the adaptive internal  antenna, which automatically optimizes RF output when worn against the  body. ADX transmitters also enable Axient Digital’s frequency diversity  and ShowLink® remote control features. Still a few months away from  general release, Shure made 12 beta-test production units available for  the show.

Stephanie Farina, a Chicago-based theater tech who worked in the A2  role on the production, was very impressed. “The system being digital is  a big help, because you can fit more frequencies together without  intermod,” she notes. “We did need to do a little work with creative  antenna placements to get full coverage with a steel set in such a large  space, but once we did, we used Wireless Workbench® software together  with some old school methods and ended up with a solid frequency plan,  including 16 backup frequencies. Not bad for downtown Chicago!”

Farina was also responsible for miking the performers, which is where  the ADX1M made a strong impression. “With no external antenna, I was a  little skeptical of the ADX packs at first, but they worked flawlessly  for us,” she continued. “I love that the mic connector is recessed.  Because of how small and sleek they are, with rounded corners, it makes  my life easier with costume and wardrobe, and the actors love them.”

Nick Lidster was similarly appreciative. “With the Axient Digital  micro-pack on the lead performers and standard AD1 packs for the rest of  the main ensemble, plus eight handhelds, we have 54 simultaneous  microphone channels running. It’s been clean as a whistle from the time  we pushed up the faders on the first day, so I’ve been very pleased,” he  reports.

The new Axient Digital AD610 Access Point was also deployed, enabling  the system’s ShowLink remote management system for the ADX1M  Micro-Bodypacks. This lets the sound engineer monitor and change all  transmitter functions remotely, in real time. Even better, the system  can detect and avoid interference, using ShowLink functionality in  conjunction with the AXT600 Spectrum Manager for an extra measure of  assurance that the show will go on as planned.

For sound designer Nick Lidster, Axient Digital proved itself worthy  in an extremely challenging application. “Working in association with  Shure and OSA International on this particular show has been  invaluable,” he says. “Jesus Christ Superstar requires a rock and roll  aesthetic, and we had to bring a lot of technology into a very  traditional opera venue to make that happen. With Axient Digital, I feel  as though Shure is actually listening to theater sound designers and  turning up with products that are actually intended for our specific  needs.”

Following the success of this large-scale production, Chicago Lyric  Opera will add 48 channels of Axient Digital receivers with ADX  transmitters, ShowLink Access Points, and Shure rechargeable batteries  with rackmount charging stations to its permanent sound system.

Gear List
Model Number Quantity Description
Axient Digital Unprecedented signal stability and audio clarity, plus flexible hardware options, advanced connectivity, and comprehensive control.
UHF-R Wireless system masters the high pressure and extreme conditions of any large-scale touring or installation while delivering uncompromising audio.