The Cape Playhouse - Dennis, MA


Book, Music, & Lyrics by Meredith Willson
Directed by James Brennan
Choreography by Peggy Hickey
Design Concept

This Meredith Willson American classic tells the story of two people who fall in love.  Given the classic nature of the production, the director and I chose to implement a natural sound design​ with light sound reinforcement.  The 600-seat proscenium theatre converted from a church includes a large balcony section and side balconies referred to as the loge.  While the live acoustics of the venue added to the light sound reinforcement design, there were some challenges regarding the front section of the orchestra seating being very close to the shallow pit.  Sound baffling material was put up along the pit rail to help reduce the bleed directly into the first few rows.  d&b e8 speakers were added as front fills along the pit rail which helped to boost clarity of the vocals over the close presence of the band.  The front fill speakers also helped to shift the sound image down toward the stage as opposed to from the main speakers above.  


To help with the transparency, I added as many speakers as resources would allow to be as close to the audience as possible.  This way I didn't have to turn up the overall volume as much, thus helping to reduce ambient reflections from the speakers.  A main center speaker system was included, and was used for amplification of the vocals.  The main left and right speaker system was used primarily for the band, with select effects and reverb processing added in certain moments.  


During system tuning, I set out a loudspeaker center stage and set delay times using a distance measure and click track for each speaker zone to match the delay time of the test speaker.  I then added an over-delay to the input channels to shift the sound sourcing image to the actors, taking advantage of the Haas effect.  If there was more time and resources, changing input delay with actor movement would have been utilized, but the overall delay settings helped to achieve the transparent system design.


In efforts to control the sound of the band, I implemented an Aviom-like headphone monitoring system to further reduce ambient noise and additional unwanted amplification of the band.  The band was not accustomed to the headphone monitoring and instead chose to forgo the monitoring system.  


While the venue included a front-of-house mounted camera, I had to specify a wide-angle infrared camera and additional video monitors in the rental package so that the cast, stage manager, and myself (as mixer) could see the conductor for cueing.  


As is common with summer stock theatre, the changeover and tech process was very fast.  The changeover schedule was as follows: Saturday evening performance for previous show ended around 10 pm.  Band rehearsal off-site Sunday afternoon.  Wandelprobe with cast on stage and band in the pit Sunday evening.  Monday 10 out of 12 tech with piano/rhythm in band.  Tuesday tech and final dress in afternoon with full band, and Tuesday night was opening.  Given the tight schedule and playing the role of both designer and mixer, additional effort and prep work was performed to make the process as smooth as possible.

Production Photos
Sound Supervisor

In addition to sound designing the show, I was also the Sound Supervisor for the entire summer season at the Playhouse.  I designed the rep sound system and worked with the sound intern and other departments to coordinate load-ins and changeovers.  Months prior to arrival at the Playhouse, I worked with audio shops in New York City to design a sound system that provided even coverage and flexibility for the possible needs of the different shows in the season.  When coordinating the equipment needs list and rental package for The Music Man, I prioritized design ideals based on equipment and budget availability.  

No complete draftings of the space were available as most of the production staff was new to the Playhouse.  From photos and seating charts, I rough-ed in the balcony level drafting, which I was able to confirm with a site visit one week before load-in.  Once I had a mostly accurate drafting of the venue, I was able to begin figuring out the details of the speaker system.  

Shop Bids and Negotiations

Click on the paperwork below to enlarge the image or download the PDF.

The Bare Necessities

An initial equipment list is on the left.  Ideally, I would like to have a separate vocal system and band system, appropriate coverage with on-stage foldback, even coverage in the house, and a system for side surrounds and rear surrounds.  The surround speakers would be used for the wet sends of reverb to open the space in a natural way.  After several versions of bids and quotes, it became very clear that the company had severely under-budgeted for the venue and needs of the show.  The bare-bones version of my rental package was slimmed down to the following equipment:


1 @ Mult Package

4 @ d&b E0 w/ mounting

2 & d&b EPAC

4 @ EAW JF80

2 @ JF80 Horizontal Yoke

2 @ JF80 Vertical Yoke

1 @ Crown XTi 4002 (or similar)

2 @ Safer sidearm

2 @ 24" S40 Pipe for Safer Sidearm


20 @ Channels of Sennheiser EVO series RF Mics

4 @ Shure ULX Bodypack

20 @ Countryman B3 elements - RENTAL

1 @ Monitoring package

1 @ Video package


6 @ SM58 (no switch)

9 @ SM81

5 @ SM57

This bare-bones rental cut out an idea of a center cluster and resorted to the use of the house Behringer X32 console.  This also cut back on an ideal number of comm belt packs for the crew and creative team.  

The rental shop was able to give us a deep discount on our rental package, and the final quote / rental equipment list can be found here.

System Design

The original design included more delay speakers for the loge and balcony seating areas.  I also would have liked to include a system of side and/or rear surround speakers to allow for opportunities to simulate sound reflections off the wall behind you.  Unfortunately due to the large size of the house and the small size of the budget, those icing-on-the-cake ideas were tabled.  A combination of house-owned and rented speakers and amplifiers were used to provide necessary monitoring on top of providing even coverage for the audience.

Click on the paperwork below to enlarge the image or download the PDF.

Speaker Plot

Lower Level

Speaker Plot

Upper Level

Speaker Plot

Section View

Band Seating


QLab Cheat Sheet

Cue Sheet

Signal Flows and Rack Drawings

Click on the paperwork below to enlarge the image or download the PDF.

System Photos

Click on an image below for a detailed explanation.

DCA Tracking & RF Info

Click on the paperwork below to enlarge the image or download the PDF.

DCA Scenes

Head Shot Cheat Sheet

RF Info

© 2020 Jeff Sherwood. 

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