The “virtual orchestras” debate has crossed the Pond as renovations displace “Les Miserables” from longtime London home, the Palace Theater, to the smaller Queen’s Theater. The Queen’s pit can accommodate only 10 musicians and producers aim to use modern technology to create a fuller sound. Producer Cameron Mackintosh has met with reps from Britain’s Musicians Union, which has been lobbying for a strike to stop West End theaters from abandoning live music, to discuss the issue.
“Les Miz” composer Claude-Michel Schonberg said, “In 2004, when the set and lights are directed by computer and not manually like in the past, it seems unthinkable that we should not be able to use the most up-to-date technology to create the best sound possible. … This is why at theaters in London where the number of musicians is limited by the size of the pit, we want to use the maximum amount of live musicians that can be accommodated, combined with technology to ensure the highest standards.”
Mackintosh said, “There is no dispute with the Musicians Union, and we have agreed to assess the options available to us” in the move. However, Mackintosh’s office added, “If a satisfactory arrangement cannot be made with the MU, then this could result in the premature closure of this highly successful production.”