Buena Vista Social Club Sounds Spectacular at the Atlantic Theater


The company of Buena Vista Social Club™. Photo by Ahron R. Foster.

Based on actual events, the new musical Buena Vista Social Club brings to the stage the celebrated 1998 Grammy-winning album of rhythmic Afro-Cuban music and the stories of many of its musicians. Making its world premiere at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York City, the production tells the tale of the ensemble, which was formed in Havana in 1996 to showcase popular music styles such as son, bolero, and danzón. The group was the subject of a film directed by Wim Winders, which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature.

For this production, the Atlantic turned to long-time partner PRG for lighting and audio support. PRG has worked with the Atlantic on several successful shows that ultimately moved to Broadway, including The Band's Visit and Kimberly Akimbo, winner of this year’s Tony Award for Best Musical.

Tyler Micoleau’s lighting design for Buena Vista Social Club included 60+ automated fixtures, an extensive system for a venue that’s a converted church with just 199 seats. To achieve the dynamic, responsive lighting effects necessary for the distinctive music and choreography, Micoleau chose GLP Impression X5s and Martin Encore and Mac TW1 fixtures.


Audio played a critical role in the production, requiring capture of over 20 cast members, including a 10-piece band of musicians playing percussion instruments, horns, and guitars. To recreate the Buena Vista Social Club experience, keeping the instrumentals and acoustics authentic to its musical carnation in Cuba, PRG provided an audio package that included a state-of-the-art system from German pro audio manufacturer Holoplot.

Sound Designer Jonathan Deans specified Holoplot for its unique ability to control the audio pattern for the audience. He explained, “The system allows us to set parameters that can shape the sound, which is exactly what we needed for this show. They have a different approach to line array and point source speaker coverage that’s very successful for treating our vocals in this very tight space and a very (potentially) loud situation. We wanted to make sure that we had the best coverage and the highest level of control. So, I reached out to Holoplot to see if they could make their system work in a theater environment.”


(L-R) Natalie Venetia Belcon (Omara) and Kenya Browne (Young Omara). Photo by Ahron R. Foster.

“Working with Jonathan Deans and PRG on this project was exceptional. Jonathan effectively addressed the challenge of dealing with the reflective nature of the exposed brick walls of the theatre and the complexity of the ensemble using our unique Optimized Coverage Beams and Virtual Sources from a single array of X1. The result is an outstanding, harmonious listening experience with enhanced vocal clarity, improved intelligibility and precise localization that does justice to this beautiful show,” said Reese Kirsh, Segment Manager Performing Arts and Live at HOLOPLOT.

The Atlantic Theater Company is the first traditional theatrical production to use the Holoplot system. The manufacturer’s popular X1 Matrix Array products have been used on recent installations including the Sphere in Las Vegas and the immersive David Hockney exhibit at Lightroom in London, providing crystal clear listening experiences in extremely challenging environments. As a leader in innovation and technology, PRG was excited to collaborate with Holoplot, a pioneer in the audio industry, to bring this system to the Atlantic Theater and Buena Vista Social Club, showcasing the scalability of their technology.

“We were so excited to work with Jonathan Deans and the team from the Atlantic Theater Company to bring the first theatrical application of Holoplot to life,” said Alex Donnelly, VP and General Manager – Theatre at PRG. “In the last 18 months, we’ve redoubled our commitment to the audio segment of our business with sustained investments in our facility, equipment, and of course our people. We are eager to continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the theatre and help realize our designers’ design ambitions”.

When asked about working with PRG on this show, Deans replied, "PRG has become a shop that supports not only me in my role as designer but the show crew in the shop, the associates and the assistants. What we do on shows is put together a jigsaw puzzle. So, big kudos to PRG for understanding that."

Buena Vista Social Club is playing at The Atlantic Theater through January 21, 2024.


(L-R) Jared Machado (Young Compay), Kenya Browne (Young Omara), and Olly Sholotan (Young Ibrahim). Photo by Ahron R. Foster.

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