The Shubert - smaller sister to the not-for-profit Wang Center for the Performing Arts' 3600-seat Wang Theatre - underwent a $6 million restoration back in 1996, at which time an all-EAW/QSC system was installed. A 24-channel Soundcraft 800B desk that had previously been used next door at the Wang since the early '80s was brought over at the tail end of the renovation to run the Shubert's house system. Now, five years later, the theatre has finally retired its 800B, nearly 20 years old, in favor of a new Series FOUR, which is located 'rear orchestra' in typical Broadway fashion.
James R. McCartney, the Shubert's union sound man for the past three years, comments on why he recommended the Series FOUR to the Wang Center's management. "I needed a console that had a minimum of eight auxiliaries with individual pre/post routing per bus per channel because we have to provide feeds for the press, assistive listening systems, dressing rooms, backstage area and so on. Eight VCAs and onboard mute scene programming were other primary requirements, not to mention an 8x8 matrix because the entire house system here at the Shubert is configured on an eight-channel matrix. The Series FOUR provided all of these things as well as a lot of other amenities that I certainly appreciate, such as switchable inserts, aux master muting and extensive PFL/AFL facilities. In my opinion, features like these bring the Series FOUR right up head-to-head with other high-end consoles costing, frankly, quite a bit more.
"With a constant stream of different performances taking place here, we aren't afforded an elaborate rehearsal and production schedule for any event visiting the Shubert. Thankfully, the Series FOUR is particularly well suited to accommodate quick setups and last-second changes. It's a very easy desk to run and is extremely flexible in terms of handling everything from solo performers all the way up to touring Broadway-style musicals.
"The console is also physically very compact without feeling crowded; an important issue for an intimate venue like ours. In fact, it possesses nearly the same footprint, within inches, of our old 800B that had only 24 channels instead of 32. And if you consider how long the Wang Center was able to keep that desk in service, the Series FOUR should be performing here admirably for many years to come.
"I should add that certainly one of the selling points of this desk was simply that it is a Soundcraft, which everyone is familiar with. There is a general acceptance among engineers that Soundcraft is one of the industry standards, and I can honestly say I've never had anybody second-guess the console in terms of specifications. It's always been accepted."
Today, the Shubert Theatre has evolved into a home for several Boston arts organizations, including Boston Lyric Opera and World Music, as well as a venue for touring companies that present theatre, music, dance and opera productions. Many renowned stage actors, the likes of Al Jolson, Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud, John Barrymore, Richard Burton, Mary Martin and Julie Andrews, have graced the stage over its years. More recently, the Shubert has hosted such Broadway sensations as Cats, Dreamgirls, Les Misarables, Carousel and RENT.
The Wang Center for the Performing Arts and its Shubert Theatre can be visited online at www.wangcenter.org.