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What year did they start using microphones?

COOOOLkid
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I'm kinda curious...
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Michael Bennett
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There was a long thread on this recently on Talkinbroadway.com and I think the basic consensus was: that mics began with Anna Maria Alberghetti in CARNIVAL (1961) and slowly escelated so that THE GRASS HARP in 1970 was the last musical on Broadway that didn't use microphones at all.

Even Ethel Merman wore a body mic in HELLO DOLLY (1971).
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GYPSY1527
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Even Ethel Merman wore a body mic in HELLO DOLLY (1971).

Now that is surprising! I would have never thought that she did. By the way, are there any recordings of her in Hello Dolly?
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There was a recording made through the sound board, and Ethel's body mic shorts out in the middle of the first act and isn't fixed until intermission. Sadly, you can't hear all her performance - but it's one reason why I know she wore a body mic!
zannadont
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wow that early?

i thought it started in the late 70s...
maybethistime
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CATS was the first musical that every performer wore a body mic.
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MargoChanning
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Some tidbits from Mark N Grant's "The Rise and Fall of the American Musical":

-- Floor miking goes back to the 30s. Earl Carroll is said to have brought out a Hollywood sound man to "enhance" his revues as early as 1933 (critics Brooks Atkinson and Richard Watts publicly took Carroll to task for doing so in his 1940 revue). "Dubarry Was a Lady" (1939)secretly used amplification because of the heavy brass orchestrations, despite Merman being in the cast.

-- Saki Oura was apparently the first person to receive Playbill credit for "consulting sound engineer" for 1945's "One Touch of Venus."

-- Richard Rodgers said that Carousel was his last show without microphones and Ethan Mordden has said that ironically ex-opera singer Helen Traubel was the first R&H performer to be miked in Pipe Dream (1955).

-- West Side Story (1957) used foot mikes

-- the first show to use a sound mixing console in the back of the theatre was 1957's Jamaica, so that Lena Horne's voice could be heard at the back of the theatre over the heavy orchestrations.

-- Wireless radio microphones were first produced in the early 1960s (one source claims Carol Channing used one in Dolly in 1964), but didn't become widely used until the 1970s. Cats (1982) was probably the first show in which every single performere wore a wireless mike. Even as late as 1981, Dreamgirls only used 5 wireless mikes; when the shows other performers came downstage, the whole orchestra had to come down in volume because the performers were coming off of the foot mikes.
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Updated On: 4/9/06 at 03:11 PM
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Rodgers and Hammerstein insisted that floor mics be used for SOUTH PACIFIC because they thought that the dialogue and lyrics were getting lost up in the rear mezzanine and balcony of the theatre. Apparently, they put a mic on the stage and went up to watch the show in the balcony and could hear every word. The rest is history...
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wickedrentq
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Woah...it's pretty amazing that the foot mikes were able to stay on in WSS with all the crazy dancing they do...

I do have to say, at Broadway By The Year: 1956 on Monday, in a couple songs from I believe it was The Most Happy Fella, Marc Kudish and Emily Skinner sang unmiked...and it was gorgeous! I was fairly high and I heard everything. It sounded so natural. And at the end, the whole cast sang "Make The Garden Grow" from Candide unmiked, and again...totally gorgeous.

I've never really been too much on one side of the whole mike debate--the way some shows are now, mikes really are imperative. But I do think with some shows and some performers, mikes are not always a necessity, and it would be nice to hear some of the natural beauty of voices every once in a while.
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BBTY always makes a point of doing several numbers per concert unmic'd, which I think is great. It allows you to hear a song from "The Golden Age" presented the way it was originally sung way back when. I love that, as well as the spectacular Broadway Unplugged concerts.
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misto625
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I thought I remembered reading in an interview that Andrea McArdle didn't have a mike for Annie in 1977.
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I agree Mef--it certainly was a treat.
"If there was a Mount Rushmore for Broadway scores, "West Side Story" would be front and center. It snaps, it crackles it pops! It surges with a roar, its energy and sheer life undiminished by the years" - NYPost reviewer Elisabeth Vincentelli