LSS Productions, Shure Axient Digital and the Stars of the Future

CLOC Musical Theatre presents Mamma Mia! Photo credit: Fon Photography

Community and non-professionally produced musicals are the proving ground for the stars of tomorrow, and a vital part of Australia’s vibrant theatre culture. After the big shows have had their run on Broadway, The West End, and in Melbourne’s ‘Uptown’ theatres, the performance rights are made available to community-led groups and schools, who mount productions every bit as polished as the pros, without the benefit of multi-million dollar budgets. It’s a sector of the industry run on pure love, passion, dedication, sweat, and volunteerism, and is all the nobler for it.

The companies that produce these musicals take their audio seriously, just as they do every other aspect of their production. Where possible, they use exactly the same equipment as you’d see deployed on Broadway, which is why Marcello Lo Ricco, director of music theatre sound specialists LSS Productions, uses Shure Axient Digital radio microphones on their extensive work in the sector.

“In 2020, LSS will be working on seven separate productions of Mamma Mia over 12 months,” relates Marcello, “and I’ll be using Shure Axient Digital AD1XM micro bodypack transmitters on all four lead characters. At the moment, I have the ADX1Ms on the two leads in the James Terry Collective production of Legally Blonde running at Chapel off Chapel in Melbourne.”

Altogether, LSS owns 32 receiver channels worth of Shure Axient Digital wireless, paired with 28 AD1 standard bodypacks and four ADX1M micro packs, though that stock is set to expand.

The ADX1M’s unique industrial design sees the microphone connector sheltered and protected in a sculpted-out space on the right of the pack. “The way the connector is shaped into the pack and doesn’t protrude means Shure have really thought about breakage and sweat protection,” observes Marcello. “90% of all wireless mic breakages happen at that connector, and the design is protecting the connector from stress. Shure are leading the market in that regard.”

“The ADX1M also has the advantage of having no protruding antenna; it’s all internal,” continues Marcello. “We’ve found that the cast love them because of their size. We double-mic a lot of lead actors, and that can mean extra bulk which is an issue for performers, especially on big dance shows. Using the ADX1Ms, the performers don’t feel the bulk on their body. Because they’re so small, we’re able to fit them in costumes without being seen or felt. Having a really small pack also helps a lot in costume changes, as they’re not in the way, and don’t fall off during the changes. We’re really excited to be able to fit them in wigs – they’re the ideal size and shape, which keeps the packs away from most of the physical issues you get on a show.”

The ADX1Ms ship with two rechargeable batteries, and LSS have opted for the SBC840M 8-bay networkable docking chargers. “The battery life is really good,” reports Marcello. “I’ve found that can be an issue with micropacks that use extremely small batteries, but we’ve had zero issues with the ADX1Ms. The chargers are really nice – they’re simple to use, and clearly display the charge indication. We can network them via Shure’s Wireless Workbench software and see on our computer at FOH how long the batteries have left to have left to charge, while they’re sitting in their chargers back stage.”

LSS have also taken advantage of Shure Axient Digital’s game-changing ShowLink control capabilities, adding an AD610 ShowLink wireless access point to their network. “Our operators are so excited that they can use ShowLink to change a transmitter’s gain or sensitivity remotely while the performer is on stage,” explains Marcello. “It’s a life-saver when you have to swap different mics onto different performers, and makes making changes as we build shows during tech week so much easier on everyone. And it does exactly what it says it does; you can change frequencies or any other setting on both the transmitter and receiver through Wireless Workbench, and you don’t hear it change.”

LSS has just clocked up its 11th year providing sound for the ‘Amateur Tonys’, the annual Music Theatre Guild Awards, held at Ballarat’s Her Majesty’s Theatre, utilising Shure Axient Digital in early December. In 2020, Marcello and LSS will work in stalwart Victorian and Tasmanian venues including St Kilda’s National Theatre, the Frankston Arts Centre, GPAC Playhouse, Launceston’s Princess Theatre, the Williamstown Centenary Theatre, and the Whitehorse Centre. Productions slated for 2020 include Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Jersey Boys, Cats, School of Rock, and Matilda, with LSS ensuring that this impressive roster of semi-pro shows are produced to the technical standard their audiences and performers expect.

CLOC Musical Theatre presents Mamma Mia! Photo credit: Fon Photography