• Drum Set and Percussion Setups from Musical Theater and More

Deane Prouty - Peter and the Starcatcher

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Deane’s very unique setup for the Broadway production of Peter and the Starcatcher at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in New York City.

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“The setup at Peter and the Starcatcher is a bit different then most. There are only a few ‘musical’ numbers in the show. In fact it is really a play with music and 95% of what I am doing is foley work - sound effects timed with action on the stage. I am located in the front stage left box seat and have a clear view of the stage. When we started the show in 2011 at New York Theater Workshop in the East Village, I was literally suspended up over the audience on a platform hanging from the ceiling by chains. Although the box seat is a bit cramped, it doesn't sway when I play!
Some of the sound effects are carry-overs from earlier workshops in La Jolla and Williamstown Theater Festival. But the majority are sounds we came up with through the process of trial and error. Music Director Marco Paguia had a great bit of input as did the Composer Wayne Barker. The Directors Roger Rees (Nicholas Nickelby) and Alex Timbers (Bloody, Bloody, Andrew Jackson) told me that when a door closed on stage, they did not want a foley door sound, but wanted something that represented a door slamming. So what we use is a closed palm thud on a large Djembe and a low LP cowbell played together. It leaves a bit more up to the audiences imagination, but the reality is that when you are in the audience and see the action onstage and hear that sound, you know a door closed. We also each have a de-tuned violin on which we play squeaky sounds for the rusty hinges on the doors.

Some of the more interesting sound effects are throwing chains into a metal pail with an upturned splash cymbal in the bottom - this is for the sound of breaking glass when a pail is thrown through a make believe mirror. There is a sword fight between Black Stache and Captain Slank onstage, that is acted out with a wooden handled toilet plunger and a driftwood club - meanwhile, I am in the gallery with a long strip of steel and a shorter one with a handle attached, that, as the actors hit the clubs together, I am making ching-ching, ssshinnngggg sounds with my metal "sword", all timed to the moment their "wooden swords" make contact.
I gave Marco an instrument to play for the pirate ship creaking noise, it is a stick not unlike a shortened yardstick with a medium sized sawtooth pattern cut along one edge.  When the Pirate ship lists from one side to the other, Marco scrapes the sawtooth slowly--then quicker--then slowly again, along the edge of the piano case. Meanwhile I am playing a gliss, or thumb-roll across the head of a 26" bass drum with calf heads--slow to fast to slow, timed with Marco's sound.
There is a scene in which the character ‘Grempkin’, whips the bareback Peter in the hold of the ship with a riding crop. A whip sound has 2 parts, the whoosh and the crack. I created these sounds with a 3' buggy whip cutting through the air for the whoosh, and a riding crop with a large leather fob on the end which I crack against a special pad I made which sounds eerily similar to the sound of smacking flesh, all timed to the quick action onstage.
Other instruments in the setup include a large kalimba (played on the frame with a superball mallet), a car transmission bell, a Cuica (for jungle gorilla noises), a MalletKat, a 12" diameter metal cog ratchet, multiple types of cymbals, a thunder drum with a 4' long spring attached to the head of a 13" tom tom, and a huge 8 foot thundersheet.”

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Below is Deane’s setup from the Off-Broadway production of Peter and the Starcatcher at New World Stages in New York City.

Some additional words from Deane.

“Well, all good things come to an end... or in this case we moved Off-Broadway!

Setting up in the new theater at New World Stages was almost like taking the show back to New York Theater Workshop, where it all began. The theater is much smaller (499 seats), and my setup was again built on a platform and suspended from the ceiling of the theater by steel cables. I had full view of the stage for all the tricks I needed to do with the actors, and it was much more intimate for the actors. Needless to say I had to condense everything into a much smaller space, accessible only by a vertical ladder. There was hardly any room to move and I did a lot of playing from a seated position. The pianist Greg Anthony Rassen, was on a similar platform, directly across the theater from me. Almost all of my ‘toys’ were within arm’s reach, and several of the larger instruments like the Bass Drum and 8 foot long Thunder sheet (lower center of photo) were tied to the light grid and suspended above my head.”

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Check out Deane’s website and his really cool YouTube video of his 1915 Deagan Unafone Nickelodean.

If you're interested in seeing more Setup Shots click here.