Toni Tony Tone

June 9, 2003

A couple of weeks ago, I actually went to see Hairspray, the musical which won a bunch of Tony Awards last night. I wouldn't have otherwise gone, except that my parents took me and my sister. Fortunately, I rather enjoyed Hairspray. It's a reminder of why people pay money to see musicals-- a fun, colorful, effervescent bit of entertainment. While most musicals are cheesy, often while trying to be serious, Hairspray not only acknowledges its cheesiness, but exults in that cheesiness.

However, I found one element of the show very jarring-- the sound design. Hairspray might as well be using a canned virtual orchestra. It sounds as if it is already. In the audience, the sound of the orchestra is heard entirely from the PA system and barely at all from the orchestra pit. The result is a sound that is not completely live, but artificial and overly managed. The musicians are all first-rate, changing styles on a dime from purer R&B to its bland white equivalent. Although I can understand the actors wanting to rely on amplification to save their voices for 8 shows per week, why do the pit musicians? The result is the show sounds less live. It seems like the producers are trying to marginalize the role of the live musicians.

Posted by Andrew Raff at June 9, 2003 04:32 PM
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