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February 2019

Carnegie Mellon University

Book by Joe Masteroff

Music By John Kander

Lyrics by Fred Ebb

Based on the play by John Van Druten

and Stories by Christopher Isherwood

Directed and Choreographed by Tomé Cousin
Music Direction by Rick Edinger

Scenic Design – Jamie Phanekham

Costume Design – Jake Poser

Lighting Design – Alex Gibson

Sound Design – Scott MacDonald

Sound Engineer / A1 – William N. Lowe

          Cabaret was Carnegie Mellon University’s main stage musical for our 2018-19 season. There were several key factors creating the unique challenges for this sound design: the show was set in thrust with the band onstage and had double-cast leads that swung to ensemble characters, there were many hats and a lot of intense choreography, and the script creates both technical and conceptual demands for the design.

System Overview:

Vocal System:

  • Center Array: (10) JBL VerTec 4886, with 2x EAW SB120P subwoofers

  • Thrust: (2) Frazier CAT594 Horns

  • Front Fills: (6) JBL AC15

Band System:

  • Bandstand: (2) EAW KF300e

  • Main: (2) Meyer CQ-2

  • Subs: (2) Meyer PSW2

FX Speakers:

  • Rear FX: (2) EAW JF200e, (1) EAW JF60, (1) EAW SB180P

  • Spatial FX: (2) EAW LA325

  • Gramophone: (1) minirig 2, with Shure IEM Receiver

  • Table Phone: (1) Surface Transducer


  • Onstage: (2) JBL AC15, (1) EAW JF60

  • Offstage: (2) EAW JF60z

  • Bandstand: (5) Anchor AN-1000x / AN-130, (2) nearfield monitors

Mixing & Processing:

  • Midas Heritage 3000

  • Yamaha QL1

  • (2) Meyer Galileo 616

  • EAW MX300i

Input List:

Click image to open full Input List PDF


Drafting Packet:

Console Layout Paperwork:

Click each image to open PDF


Line Array Design:

Conceptual Design:

          Cabaret was an interesting musical to design because there is a larger plot under the staged action and the songs cannot always be taken at face value. The text is conceptually complex and employs several moments that aim to pull the rug out from under the audience.

          There are essentially three types of songs in Cabaret: Klub performances, “Book songs” (usually outside the Klub), and “Introspective songs” that happen in either setting, where we seem to be slowing down time and getting an inside look on a character’s emotional process. One of my goals was to help differentiate these categories with the sound design, primarily through dynamics, vocal reverb effects, and spatialization. Location—inside and outside of the Klub—is the most straightforward difference: inside the Klub vocals are amplified and reverb is noticeable, while in the book scenes vocals are reinforced and reverb is natural and less noticeable.


Sound Cue List - Click image to open PDF

The design made use of four different vocal reverb chains:

  1. Klub Reverb: More noticeable. More high consonants, some pre-delay, colder, “Larger than life.”

  2. Book Song Reverb: More natural. Highs rolled off for less consonants, less pre-delay, fills out the voice, warmer.

  3. Chanteuse Reverb: Beautifully elevated from reality, otherworldly and angelic, pre-delay, warm, somewhat a hybrid of the Klub and Book reverbs. This was implemented based on the director’s request that the Chanteuse character sound different from any other voice in the show. 

  4. Spatial Reverb: Long decay, routed to Spatial FX Speakers located above the audience. Provides the starkest contrast with the realistic reinforcement used in the show – the opposite of humanizing the characters. 


          Of these, the most interesting to design was the “Spatial Reverb” I created this effect based on a theme in the text that I identified with our dramaturg, which we referred to as a “detachment of the voice”: essentially, when what characters are singing about is detached or in conflict with reality. This reverb was a conceptual device introduced and gradually increased during key songs (Maybe This Time, I Don’t Care Much, Cabaret, Finale). The effect provided a subconscious metaphor for the tumultuous changes occurring in the world of the play, and the loss of agency and control by the characters. 


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