In talking with lots of community theater folks (actors, musicians, techies) one of the universal rites-of-passage is Les Miserable. It is epic in almost every dimension imaginable and has a huge following. My time came this past June with The Norton Singers. From a sound engineering perspective Les Mis is always a massive undertaking. A full board – 26 mics and could have used at least 6 more. Balancing vocals with a 13-peice orchestra. Timed gunfire cues. Big.
But there was a very special moment that occurred during the dress rehearsal that will stay on my Oops List for a long, long time. As always during tech week, things were frantic. The dress rehearsal was only the second time that we had the entire cast mic’d and we were still working through the logistics. To complicate things just a bit more, at the break, which was planned for 10 minutes, the Music Director requested that we add a second vocal monitor in the orchestra pit. Luckily the mid-show mic swaps were complete. I rushed to grab another monitor wedge and a cable and ran down to the pit. A little cabling, a little positioning in front of the brass section and we were mostly ready to go. I ran back to the booth and played a little music to check the overall monitor levels in the pit – everything seemed fine.
Just in time to start the second act. Things were progressing well. Everyone on stage and off seemed happy but tense (it was dress rehearsal after all). The second act is highlighted by several battle scenes at a makeshift barricade in the streets of Paris. The earliest of these is a poignant scene where Eponine is killed by gunfire. As the moment approached, I hit the space bar on my laptop to play the gunfire cue.
Time immediately slowed to a crawl. One of those surreal moments. Out of the speakers poured the chorus of Forget You by Cee Lo Green. Everyone in the entire theater froze – dead silence. After checking the pit monitor level, in my rushing around I forgot to bring QLab back to the front so when I hit Go, it re-started iTunes instead.
Then in an instant (which felt like several minutes), everyone broke character and started laughing. This was followed by me shouting something insightful like “My bad.” and then a moment later everyone refocused, I triggered the gunfire cue and life moved on. It was later that evening, that the actress playing Eponine walked up to me with a mischievous smile and said “Hey nice job. Death by Cee Lo.”
That one is going to stay with me for a l-o-n-g time.