Michael designed and operated sound for Glaswegian Beauty performed at the Milton Court Theatre, London in March 2015.
4 stars ★ ★ ★ ★ by Musical Theatre.com
"Mac delivers a deceptively powerful light tenor with a stupendous belt that suits the character perfectly, and thanks to some great sound balance from Mike Woods, reverberates around both floors of the well-appointed Milton Court."
How do you get a great Front of House Sound?
Anyone can call themselves a sound engineer, but it takes time and training to create a great sound. Musical Instruments are often miked incorrectly using the wrong microphone in the the wrong position and stage monitors badly positioned causing feedback to be created by a frustrated engineer trying to 'lift' the sound of an instrument ineffectively amplified. Likewise radio microphones transmitters and receivers can be adjusted and positioned in many ways all critical to effective amplification and need to be monitored during a show. The whole system needs to be correctly Designed, rigged and checked to ensure the sound is right throughout the venue not just at the mixing position.
In smaller venues the natural exuberance of a performer can overwhelm the mix and their live performance may itself need turning down ... That's why we cage some drummers in Perspex boxes!
Get these basic starting points wrong you will never get a great sound Front of House, but it is an area that can be neglected through lack of time management or knowledge.
We have all been to shows where the band overwhelms the singer, or individual instruments aren't blended with others to create a whole band experience, or worst case scenario there is feedback that hurts your ears. A great mix is created by knowing the music performed and being able to lift soloists when required. The great recordings you hear will have had each instrument recorded separately and mixed later to create the musical experience. The live engineer does not have this advantage and has only one chance to get each show right and has to be constantly adjusting the mix to complement the performance to show the performers at their best.
Full Text of Review: It takes a lot of chutzpah to make a leap from cabaret to the big stage. The stakes are much higher, the audience will probably be expecting much more and material that might have gone down very well near closing time in Soho may well fall flat with an early evening theatre audience.
Glaswegian Beauty is drag artist Mary Mac’s bid for the big stage, and while this performance is something of a try-out, it’s delivered with style, sensational singing and more than a little class. It’s always a pleasure to hear drag queens singing rather than lip-syncing and Mary Mac, late of the Supreme Fabulettes, has a stunning vocal range. Rarely slipping into falsetto, Mac delivers a deceptively powerful light tenor with a stupendous belt that suits the character perfectly, and thanks to some great sound balance from Mike Woods, reverberates around both floors of the well-appointed Milton Court Theatre.
Undoubtedly, one of the more stunning aspects of this venture is the 80-piece GT and the Sundial Orchestra, who bring a different dimension to the two-act show. Musical director Giles Thornton distils all the excitement and energy of Mac’s set list with some striking arrangements and a team which evidently embraces the fun of this comedy show, directed by JP McCue.
Mac’s patter is mostly lighthearted and generally suitable for family audiences, although there is a diversion towards the end of the first half that seems slightly out of place. The banter about growing up as an ambitious, strawberry-blonde schoolgirl in Glasgow with aspirations to a musical theatre career suddenly develops into a moving, if slightly uncomfortable examination of issues with her father. The undeniable honesty of this story sits at odds with the other laugh-out-loud moments.
The highlight, however, is Mac’s set list, which features a heady mix of musical theatre standards, occasionally delivered with hilarious new lyrics, a few torch songs delivered with impeccable emotional integrity and the occasional pop anthem for fun. Opening with ‘Be My Baby’ – something Bette Midler did at last year’s Royal Variety Performance – establishes Mac’s range, while the sense of humour is explored through adaptations of ‘It’s the Hard Knock Life’ and ‘I Cain’t Say No’.
‘Take Me to Heaven’ from Sister Act secures Mac’s rock credentials, although that really comes to the fore with the ‘Proud Mary’ finale. Before this brings the house down, there is the sassy ‘Everybody’s Girl’ and the cheeky ‘If I Were a Boy’, complemented by a glorious clarinet solo that for a moment upstages the Scottish songstress.
A filmed Taggart sequence is great fun, but it tends to slow the live action down and the gauze doesn’t take the projection too well. There are a few awkward pauses in the running order too – due either to technical glitches or costume changes – that should have been smoothed out at the tech, but Glaswegian Beauty is Mac’s first foray into this grand format, so hopefully these problems will be smoothed over for future shows.