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The Show Must Go On! Standards Support the Return of Broadway’s Most Popular Musicals

9/20/2021

Broadway is back! For the first time since the onset of the pandemic, audiences have been welcomed back to the theater to enjoy some of the most iconic musicals of the decade: “Wicked,” “The Lion King,” and “Hamilton.” Crowds were boisterous and enthusiastic at the musicals’ first performances on September 14, cheering and clapping with great enthusiasm at every performer’s entrance.

Theater-goers can now also attend performances of “Chicago,” “Hadestown,” and “Waitress,” and even buy tickets at the famous TKTS booth. Audience members must prove that they are fully vaccinated and wear a mask at all times, except when eating and drinking in designated areas. The reopening of Broadway brings a sense of comfort and return to normalcy for many, and standards help make it possible.

Hamilton, the critically acclaimed musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, relays the story of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. It is beloved by many for its artful use of a range of musical styles, including hip hop, R&B, soul, and traditional show tunes, and for the incredible performances of the singers that bring this music to life. Broadway performers typically use lavalier microphones – also known as body microphones – to amplify their voices for the audience. These tiny, high-performance devices may be sewn inside the collar of a shirt or elsewhere into a costume, hidden in the brim of a hat, woven into hair, or even attached to the performer’s skin near their face. Standards for microphones assure that clean sound is captured consistently. IEC 60268-4, Sound system equipment – Part 4: Microphones, is an international standard guiding methods of measurement for the electrical impedance, sensitivity, directional response pattern, dynamic range, and external influences of sound system microphones. It was developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), Technical Committee (TC) 100, Audio, video, and multimedia systems and equipment. The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), a member and accredited standards developer of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), is the USNC-approved Technical Advisory Group (TAG) administrator for TC 100.

As viewers of the Lion King follow the story of a young lion prince who fulfills his destiny to become king of the African Pride Lands, the rich colors and vibrant skyscapes featured in the musical transport audiences to the Serengeti – an effect achieved in large part by advanced lighting techniques. The impact of lighting on The Lion King’s success hasn’t gone unnoticed: in 1998, lighting designer Don Holder won a Tony Award for his work on the Broadway show. In recent years, Holder updated the production’s lighting to almost all current-generation LED automated fixtures that consume significantly less energy while preserving the integrity of the original version. Properly illuminating a theater requires careful attention to lighting instruments, light source selection, and layout, and these components are guided by American National Standard (ANS), ANSI/IES RP-41-20, Recommended Practice: Lighting Theaters and Worship Spaces, developed by ANSI member and accredited standards developer the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES).

Based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel Wicked – which was based on L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz – Wicked is Broadway’s fifth-longest running show. Audiences hear about the Land of Oz from the perspective of Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) and Galinda (Glinda the Good Witch). While the use of magical broomsticks remains a fantasy, Elphaba and the flying monkeys soar over the stage with the use of rope lines, pulleys, counterweights, and other devices to raise them dramatically into the air. The safety of actors performing these stunts is guided by ANSI E1.43-2016, Entertainment Technology – Performer Flying Systems. This standard establishes a minimum level of performance parameters to achieve adequate strength, reliability, and safety of these systems to ensure safety of the performers, other production personnel, and audiences under all circumstances associated with performer flying. This ANS was developed by ANSI member, Entertainment Services and Technology Association (ESTA).

Learn more about the return of Broadway at: A Complete Guide to Broadway’s Reopening, on broadway.com.

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