Peter and the Starcatcher
Brigham Young University - Idaho (2016)
Co Sound Designer
The Playmill Theatre (2017)
I’ve had the pleasure of sound designing two separate productions of Peter and the Starcatcher. Though not technically a musical, it contains a few songs and comes with a score that’s longer than that of most musicals. Almost everything is either underscored, or coupled with a sound effect. With dozens upon dozens of percussion instruments, the audience was always in for a treat of the imagination.
Given the nature of Peter and the Starcatcher, it can be a hard show to conceptually grasp. While trying to find the inspiration for my sound design concept, I watched an episode of The Fairly Odd Parents with my nephew on Nickelodeon. I was amazed at how many sound
effects were used for every little action, exactly like it’s written in Peter. I embraced the idea of a “live action cartoon” being performed on the stage. Instead of placing speakers around the set for directional sound, I chose to keep it more two dimensional and have all the sound coming from speaker arrays. This gave it a very cartoony feel.
To create the sound of Mr. Grin (the crocodile that eventually eats the hand of Black Stache), I combined sounds of many different animals. Each cue was a response to what was happening on stage, and so I sorted through dozens of crocodile growls, lion roars, and mythical monsters to combine them to create the appropriate response. Here are a few samples, accompanied by various pictures of Mr. Grin.
Photos of the vicious crocodile, Mr. Grin, in his two sizes featuring the accompanying sound effects.
Pre Show Announcement
At BYU-Idaho, we often use the same pre show announcement for every show. For years the audience has laughed at the same single joke embedded into the informational sound bite. We knew that the universe of Peter and the Starcatcher was going to be a hard one for audience members to step into, and the director and I had the idea of using this moment for the very opportunity.
I met with my great friend, Janice Munk, and we wrote dialogue for a new announcement featuring Black Stache and Smee mocking our usual announcement. The audience got a great kick out of it every night, and it really allowed them to relax into more of an accepting state, letting the world of the play come much more naturally to them. One judge from KCACTF even described it as "A perfect introduction to the evening."
Here is the final recording.
Our production at BYU-Idaho was done with live musicians. When we began discussing the possibilities of mounting the show on The Playmill Theatre stage, we knew it would be a challenge. We wouldn’t have the room or resources for all the percussion demands. With a show so reliant on intricate sound that follows the actors, we know it would be nearly impossible to rely on backing tracks from an outside company. We opted to record them ourselves.
After a matinee performance we began a recording session with a time allotment of only four hours. Thanks to a ton of planning, I was able to record individual pieces to later stitch together all the sound files in a rather ingenious QLab project. With a clever setup on vamps, transitions, and cues, I was able to assemble a project that made it feel as if the performers were alongside real musicians. It wasn’t uncommon for dozens of cues to be playing at the same time in order to get a completely dynamic performance. We were often asked where the musicians were hiding, as they couldn’t be seen on the stage.
Video showing the recording process of Peter and the Starcatcher before I was able to create the advanced and dynamic QLab project.