Broadway Smash Wicked Takes Sennheiser’s Wireless Receivers and Transmitters Along for its Second North American Tour
Since premiering on Broadway in October of 2003, Wicked has broken countless box office records and now ranks among the top 20 longest running Broadway plays in history. Throughout its run, Wicked’s worldwide production crew has relied on Sennheiser’s wireless transmitters and receivers in all its performances.
Michael “Fodder” Carrico and Anthony Jones supervise the audio operations for Wicked’s Second North American Tour. They are responsible for keeping the audio running smoothly during the shows, monitoring the performance of the wireless RF, and mixing the shows from FOH. For each show on the tour, Sennheiser plays a foundational role in their wireless infrastructure.
Wicked Sound Designer Tony Meola was responsible for choosing Sennheiser. “All of the wireless we use on the tour is Sennheiser,” Jones says. “We have 44 SK 5212 body pack transmitters coupled with Sennheiser’s top of the line EM 3732 receivers — these cover the microphones for the entire cast.”
As one can imagine, adhering to the production schedule while on the road with Wicked is fundamentally important. By lunchtime on the first day of load-in, the crew likes to have the sound up and running in time to make any fine-tuning adjustments. Jones says that the SK 5212 is an enormous time saver in this regard, since wireless pairing is done automatically via a built-in infrared sensor. “You just enter the frequency into the receiver, hold the transmitter next to it, and then you’re done. Then you can move on and work on something else.”
Jones also likes the transparent display and controls of the EM 3732, which makes his job easier: “One of the things I like best about the EM 3732 is the fact that you can see so much of what is happening right on the display of the receiver. You can look up squelch, audio levels, or RF levels, and then make any necessary adjustments because all the controls are right in front of you.”
Finally, Sennheiser’s Wireless Systems Manager (WSM) software gives Jones and Carrico full visibility into the entire wireless operation, helping eliminate operational and logistical challenges. “You’ve got 44 receivers that could be set up in a basement somewhere,” Jones says. “Before you go running around trying to solve a problem, you can boot up WSM and see if it is RF strain on an antenna, a dead battery, or even if the muting is on. This saves a lot of headache.”
Paying a Visit to Sennheiser in Albuquerque
Recently, the Wicked tour passed through Albuquerque, where Sennheiser has a wireless plant that manufactures microphones, wireless personal monitors and wireless transmission systems. Jones and Carrico took the opportunity to visit the plant and see the people and the process behind the products. “We were playing for three weeks at Popejoy Hall at University of New Mexico,” Jones recalls. “We were invited on a tour of the facility and it was very enlightening to say the least.”
Jones and Carrico were given a behind-the-scenes tour by Joe Fortuin, general manager of Sennheiser New Mexico. Among other things, they noticed the ‘clean rooms’ and rigorous testing environments that play a role in the Sennheiser manufacturing process day in and day out, as well as the meticulous focus of the plant’s employees.
“It is easy to take for granted how all this equipment is made, as well as the effort and expertise that goes into it,” Jones says. “It was immediately clear to us that they are very serious about everything that they do there.”
The iconic musical’s Second North American Tour — which runs in tandem with other performances of Wicked around the world, including the Broadway production — began in Ft. Myers, FL, in March 2009, and has since performed for many thousands of fans across the United States.