Bringing 'The Bodyguard' to U.S. Audiences

by Thomas S. Friedman
in Theater Sound
The cast uses Sennheiser wireless mics when the show breaks out in song. Photo by Joan Marcus
The cast uses Sennheiser wireless mics when the show breaks out in song. Photo by Joan Marcus

In order to bring the music of iconic hits to audiences around the country for the U.S. touring production of the musical, The Bodyguard, sound designer Richard Brooker created a dynamic and powerful audio system that was provided by Masque Sound, a leading theatrical sound reinforcement, installation and design company.

Based on the Warner Bros. 1992 film that was written by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, The Bodyguard tells the story of former Secret Service agent Frank Farmer who is hired to protect superstar Rachel Marron from an unknown stalker. With a book by the Oscar-winning and Drama Desk Award-nominated Alexander Dinelaris, this extraordinary new production of The Bodyguard is directed by noted British film and theater director Thea Sharrock.

The show goes from quieter dialogue to big and brash rock ‘n’ roll moments. Photo by Joan Marcus

‡‡         The Challenge

Brooker has designed the sound for many productions of The Bodyguard, including the original West End production in London; Cologne, Germany; a U.K. tour; Korea; Toronto and an upcoming Australian production, so his goals in designing the sound were clear. “We knew we needed to deliver the same punch to the show as previous productions, while making it something that could be transported easily,” says Brooker. “Having successfully worked with Masque Sound numerous times before and knowing they have a lot of experience with touring productions throughout the United States, along with the expertise of Gary Stocker, who designs all the P.A. towers and knows the venues inside out, the choice to work with them again was a no brainer.”

The biggest challenge Brooker faced in designing the sound for The Bodyguard was with the dynamic of the show itself, as it ranges from intimate theatrical moments to full-on concert sound. “The journey from very small dialog to a full-scale rock and roll concert was an important consideration from a sound design perspective,” adds Brooker. “We also wanted to truthfully represent all the massive pop hits played throughout the show. The audience wants to hear their favorite songs, and we wanted to deliver them as honestly as possible.”

‡‡         The Sound System

In order to deliver as true a representation as possible, Brooker’s equipment selection was critical. For his console, Masque Sound provided Brooker with a DiGiCo SD7T, and for the P.A. system, he chose a selection of speakers from Meyer Sound, including its Leopard line arrays. Meyer Leopard enclosures are ideal for touring and also deliver the range of dialog and concert sound the show requires.

An interesting component to the custom audio equipment package, provided by Masque Sound, was the use of Sennheiser SKM 9000 Series wireless units for the show’s eight handheld microphones. The SKM 9000’s unique uncompressed digital audio transmission offers interference-free sound with great dynamics. In addition to the Sennheiser 9000’s, Masque Sound also provided Sennheiser 5212 bodypacks for the lavalier mics. In all, Masque Sound provided over 40 channels of wireless along with frequency coordination.

In all, Masque Sound provided over 40 channels of wireless along with frequency coordination. Photo by Joan Marcus

‡‡         Mics and Monitors

“I’ve used the Sennheiser SKM 9000’s on a few shows now and they are just outstanding,” adds Brooker. “They provide a great sound quality, with basically no noise floor. They sound amazing and deliver a truer dynamic vocal range. I still haven’t heard anything from anyone else that sounds that good, and I was thrilled and very appreciative that Masque Sound made the commitment and investment for us.”

Masque Sound also provided the Roland M48 personal monitoring system for the musicians, which Brooker considers to be the most flexible and best sounding personal monitoring set up available today. Brooker also selected Roland for its convenience and ability to seamlessly integrate with the Cat-5 REAC Digital Snake System.

Masque Sound provided Sennheiser SKM 9000 Series wireless units for the show’s eight handheld microphones.

‡‡         Reactions

“This is the fourth time I’ve put a show together in the United States, and I’m proud to say all four of those shows I worked with Masque Sound,” says Brooker. “I have a wonderful relationship with the company and feel so supported by Scott Kalata and the rest of the team. They have always done everything possible to provide me with the gear that I’m looking for and I know the producers always feel fully supported by them as well. Masque Sound is always going to be our first call, no question. My associate sound designer Tom Marshall and production sound engineer Matthew Dale also did a fantastic job in putting the U.S. tour together.”

The 17-city U.S. tour kicked off at the November 16, 2016 at the Paper Mill Playbouse in Milburn, NJ and wraps up next month, after a six-performance run at the Hobby Center in Houston, TX.

The Bodyguard U.S. Tour

CREDITS (partial)

  • Director: Thea Sharrock
  • Producers: Michael Harrison, David Ian and Nederlander Presentations
  • Set & Costume Design: Tim Hatley
  • Choreography: Karen Bruce
  • Lighting Design: Mark Henderson
  • Sound Design: Richard Brooker
  • Associate Sound Designer: Tom Marshall
  • Production Sound Engineer: Matthew Dale
  • Audio Provider: Masque Sound

(partial list)

  • FOH Console: DiGiCo SD7T
  • P.A. System: Meyer Sound conponents, including LEOPARD line arrays
  • Handheld Wireless: (8) Sennheiser SKM 9000 Series
  • Bodypack Wireless: (32) Sennheiser 5212
  • Personal Monitor Mixers: Roland M48’s