How Meyer Sound met the ‘tricky challenges’ of The Drifters Girl in London

A Meyer Sound system was recently specified for the extended run of The Drifters Girl show in London’s West End, with sound designer Tom Marshall hailing the system’s ability to handle the tricky nature of the intimate Garrick Theatre as one of the key reasons behind its selection.

The Drifters Girl tells the story of Faye Treadwell, the long-time manager of The Drifters, by mixing her personal narrative with 20 concert-level performances of the R&B/pop group’s chart-topping hits. To maintain the impact of both the dramatic and musical elements, Marshall opted for a strategically placed and meticulously balanced system of Meyer Sound point source loudspeakers and compact subwoofers.

“The Garrick has interesting challenges when it comes to putting a ‘pop’ musical in the space,” said Marshall. “Loudspeaker positioning is tricky due to the nature of the proscenium opening and the first set of box seats, which together prevent standard speaker positions from covering the whole auditorium.”

Using Meyer Sound’s MAPP 3D acoustical prediction software, Marshall plotted a solution to deliver uniform coverage and impact throughout the house. Because the main UPQ-D1 loudspeakers had to be set further back, a pair of ULTRA‑X40 compact loudspeakers was aimed to cover the front few rows in the narrowest part of the venue. Furthermore, because the theater has a long overhang in the stalls, two rows of discreet UP-4slim™ delay loudspeakers were rigged to the ceiling.

“Fortunately, the minimal weight of the UP-4 slims raised no issues with the plaster ceiling,” noted Marshall.

The “playhouse feel” of the venue also dictated fills to cover the far sides of each level, with ULTRA-X20 compact wide coverage loudspeakers dedicated to this application. Finally, with no hanging points for an advance truss and only a static truss spanning the two uppermost boxes with a relatively low trim height, there were no options for a center line array.

“We used two horizontal ULTRA-X40 loudspeakers with 70-degree side plates for upper and lower center coverage, and it works very well,” said Marshall.

Well-defined bass is critical for an R&B sound, but floor space around the proscenium was limited. “Thankfully, the 900-LFC [compact low-frequency control element] solved this,” Marshall explained, “as its small footprint allowed us to squeeze in one per side. It proved so effective we didn’t need anything more for the lower part of the theater.”

Bass for the upper levels was augmented by a pair of flown 750-LFC low-frequency control elements, and eight UPJ-1P compact loudspeakers were arranged for stage foldback.

All Meyer Sound loudspeakers for the production were provided by Stage Sound Services of Cardiff.

“We’ve had a very close working relationship with Tom over the years,” said Phil Hurley, director of the company. “When we learned that Tom and the show’s music director, Chris Egan, were both keen on a Meyer Sound solution, I decided this was a good opportunity to supplement our inventory with some of the newer Meyer Sound products, like the UPQ-D1 point source boxes, and the amazing little UP-4slim loudspeakers for fills and delays. It’s proven to be a worthwhile investment.”

Marshall also paid tribute to associate sound designer Dan Evans, along with original A1 Harry Barker and A2 Adam Fenton, as well as production sound engineer Dan Gregory and his crew.

Marshall and Stage Sound Services also teamed up to power the audio on a recently launched UK tour of the hit musical, Sister Act. The system is similar to that for The Drifters Girl, but with additional UPQ-D1 and ULTRA-X40 loudspeakers on hand for scaling up to larger venues.

“After hearing the UPQ-D1 loudspeakers on Drifters, I liked how well they dealt with the dynamics and transients of a pop musical,” said Marshall. “As the tour is playing in a variety of houses that often don’t successfully allow for line arrays, I decided that the UPQs were the way to go. So far, I’ve been really pleased with the result.”