Hit musical Mamma Mia! Has become the first Western musical to be performed by a Chinese cast in Mandarin, with the show currently playing in Guangzhou with a Digico SD8 handling mixing duties.
While Western musicals have previously toured China, this is the first time that one has been performed by a local cast with a translated cast.
The Chinese production of the show is produced by United Asia Live Entertainment, by arrangement with Judy Craymer, Richard East and Bjorn Ulvaeus for Littlestar in association with Universal. The technical approach to the audio was much the same as it has been for all other recent productions of Mamma Mia!, including the Digico SD8 console. Still, a few hurdles had to be cleared regarding the supply of equipment.
"Because of China’s import laws, we realised that it would be quite difficult to get the equipment in and out of the country," said the production’s associate sound designer Richard Brooker, who works closely with sound designer Bobby Aitken.
“This being the first production of its kind in China, we had no historical experience of which Chinese production companies had the skills to manage this production. We needed to be confident in the finished result, so the responsibility was placed on Seoul Sound. They have a lot of experience of this level of show as they have put on many international productions in Korea.”
With 13 principles, an ensemble and a six-piece band, the production is classified as a medium-sized musical, making the SD8 the ideal size for the production. Digico consoles have been involved in the show since the first production transferred to the Prince of Wales theatre in London in 2004, where a D5T was originally specified. However, the success of the production has led to it being technically redesigned to fit on to a much smaller console.
"Two years ago, a decision was taken to make the show more accessible to smaller territories and producers," said Brooker. "To achieve this it was redesigned from all angles, including sound, so that it now fits on to an SD8 perfectly."
The production uses a total of 83 inputs and 54 outputs, with 117 snapshots/scenes during the performance and extensive use being made of the SD8’s internal effects.
"It is astonishing to think that it actually fits on to an SD8, but that says a lot more about the desk than anything else," commented Brooker. "The SD8 is designed for a certain market and really you wouldn’t think that market could encompass a production like Mamma Mia!, which is a global success. It goes to show both how versatile and what high quality the SD8 is.
“It has been a really exciting project to be part of," he added. "Inevitably it has had its ups and downs, but it is already very successful. Audiences are loving it – perhaps the most surprising thing to Western ears is that it sounds exactly like Mamma Mia!, only in Mandarin.”
For Brooker, the SD8 has certainly played a key role in the show’s success. "Having just done two shows on an SD7, which is an astonishing console, the core usability and audio quality is no different," he said. "That’s uncommon from a manufacturer. To me the slightly more budget consoles normally sound ‘more budget’. But, having used an SD9 as well, the quality continues the whole way through the range."