Singin' In The Rain
The Playmill Theatre (2016 & 2017)
Lead Technical Designer
My sound design consisted of many of the sounds having been recorded specifically for our production. Over 90% of the sound design was recorded myself in order to match the director's clear vision. From sequences of audience reactions comprised of more than a few dozen cues, time-specific sequences, to an incredibly large amount of pre-recorded dialogue, the QLab project for this show resulted in the sound board operator pressing go nearly 350 times in a mere two hours, resulting in an experience leaving audience members unaware there was even a single button press.
The opening sequence of the show called for a large crowd with dozens of unique reactions straight from the red carpet. With such a specific vision, we knew the three actors we were able to place on stage as a “crowd” wasn’t going to cut it. I sat all the actors together in a single section and we went reaction to reaction in the script. I recorded each reaction in different mic positions to help complete the effect. When compiled together, the opening sequence contained 23 individual cues in a seamless two minutes.
Don Lockwood (played by Jacob Squire) during the iconic number, Singin' In The Rain.
I prefer to start every design with the music. After filming reference video from a rehearsal, I cut together a single track from four different orchestral pieces I had purchased that complemented what was happening on stage. A few dozen cuts were necessary to get it just right.
Now that I had a static element, I could start implementing the other elements. Automatic light and projection cues were added to create a live version of a silent movie. While an unconventional approach to the commonly pre filmed scene, the audience absolutely loved it.
Continuing with the theme of live performances rather than pre recorded videos, the scene involving Lina Lamont’s voice being dubbed over was performed live. I'll admit that I was a little hesitant with this effect. We brainstormed, and thankfully, once we put our actress playing Lina Lamont in front of the effect, it all came together perfectly.
Though one of the more simple effects, it was quite memorable for the audience. This special effect received a lot of laughs. Take a look.
What’s a theatrical sound design without a rain sequence? (Pause for laughter) When approaching the effect of making it rain in our theatre, we knew we’d need to use rain not consisting of any actual water. I created the animation for the effect, but knew I needed a convincing sound approach to truly sell the entire sequence.
I placed a microphone on our lead actor’s ankle to better pick up his tap shoes. While that was live, I wanted to supplement that with additional sounds of water being tapped in. When the snow melts behind
our theatre at the beginning of each season, it creates a puddle large enough to probably be labeled on a map. Although I’m kidding, it does create a puddle that’s perfect for some splashing. I took my field recorder and jumped around in a puddle for an hour. These sounds worked great for his large jumps, but I needed something smaller for his more general taps.
I found those smaller sounds in two places. The first being splashing my hands in a shallow baking pan with about a quarter inch of water. The second, and more cringe-worthy, method was to make a smacking sound with my mouth.
For a more in depth look at how I created the aural atmosphere of the title number sequence, you can watch this Behind the Scenes video on the process.
These different sources of sound, lights, projections, and microphones created a truly immersive experience that led many to believe we used real water, even when sitting a mere three feet away.
A picture of me jumping in the large puddles behind our theatre with my microphone.
Thank you for reading about my Sound Design for Singin' In The Rain at The Playmill Theatre! If you'd like to see more from this show, check out the post on my Projection Design here.