FOH Sound Engineer
Rob Summers started his career on the musical CATS at the New London Theatre back in 1986. Since then he has worked on numerous shows including the original production of Miss Saigon at the Theatre Royal, Mamma Mia, Les Misérables, My Fair Lady, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and The King and I at the world famous London Palladium to name a few. At the moment he is on tour with Thriller Live.
Production Sound Engineer
He has also been a production sound engineer on shows like Woyzeck, Stephen Ward, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Rock of Ages, The Lion King, Billy Elliot and Wicked.
You can find Rob's name as Sound Designer on Let There Be Love (Millfield Theatre), The Stripper (Hornchurch Theatre), The Sound of Music (QNCC Theatre, Doha), The Sound of Music (Jordan), Tommy Steele, In Concert(UK Tour), Michael Barrymore’s Laid Back Tour (UK Tour), Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, (UK Tour) and Spirit of the Dance (World Tour)
Rob Summers - What do you do?
I'm currently the Head Sound Engineer on Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the Palace Theatre, London.
What is a sound engineer?
A sound engineer the is person who mixes the show making sure all the cast and band can be heard. They are also responsible for any sound effects during the show.
How long have you been at it?
Priscilla, 17 months. Working in theatre sound, 25 years.
What was your very first role in theatre?
After my Dad passed away I stopped wanting to become a forensic scientist and started working on the stage crew on CATS at the New London Theatre.
What else have you done?
I was Sound Designer on Richard O’Brien’s The Stripper, Tommy Steele, In Concert (UK Tour), Michael Barrymore’s Laid Back Tour (UK Tour) and the world tour on Spirit of the Dance and a few others.
I have been in charge of fit-ups and get-outs for shows such as Buddy, Summer Holiday, Scrooge the Musical, Re-Arranged and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (UK Tour), West Side Story and Annie the Musical
I am no longer Head of Sound on Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
Have you got qualifications?
When I started doing this there wasn't many schools that did exams in sound. I was more of a learn on the job type of guy. I was very lucky to learn from many great people like Graham Simpson and Alan Stretch.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A policeman or a forensic scientist, as I said that changed when my dad died.
What does a sound engineer do all day when they are not mixing a show.
It depends on what I'm doing. If I'm a designing a show, I could be doing meetings with producers, directors or sound companies discussing budgets or systems. As a PE, I could be sorting paper work and booking crews. As head of sound on Priscilla, it's my job to make sure every bit of the sound system works. That includes all comms and the pit as well.
What’s the best thing about being a sound engineer?
I still get excited about opening a new show. I have always said I would give up when that dies.
And the worst?
Working at the weekend and certain requests like "can you turn me up cause my Mum is in"
What’s your dream job in theatre?
I fancy being a Diva in Priscilla, I like all the flying they do....
Rob Summers, Have you got any wise words for someone who wants to be a sound engineer and where you are now?
I can't teach you how to mix but I show you how to mix. It doesn't matter how many years you have been at college, everyday is a school day. List all the things you are good and bad at. Now work on all your bad things till they are good. I was never good at EQ. So I would sit with headphones on and EQ a SM58 until I became better.
My position now is more of a teaching position. It's my job to teach my No.2 and No.3 what to do and more importantly what NOT to do. Someone once said, being a sound engineer is 95% PR and 5% PA. It's true. Learn how to talk and deal with people and you will do well.
Lastly, if you are going to send your CV to me or any other head of sound, please make sure to find out who you are sending it to. Because if you can't be bothered, nor can I.
Rob Summers has now finished the show as it closed in 2012.