Chicago The Musical is offering a way for the visually impaired to ‘view’ the performance, and the world of audio describing is making that possible.
Neha Patel is one of the describers behind the microphone. Her role is to drip-feed vivid details to audience members equipped with special headsets.
“What we’re looking for are the main visual elements that we need to describe for the patrons, and then also what we’re looking for are the gaps, because with a musical you don’t want to talk over the music,” she told Newshub.
It’s no easy feat, and takes a lot of preparation. Patel says it’s “very carefully scripted, and when we practice we make sure that what we are saying isn’t too long or too short”.
For someone like Verna Walcott who is blind, it makes all the difference: “I thought it was really great, you know, because you lose so much when you don’t see a lot of these things”.
As part of the experience, Walcott also took part in a touch tour before the show. She was allowed on stage, she could feel the props, set and all the costumes that make the magic.
Her favourite piece was a sparkly dress worn by main character Roxie Hart, helping her to visualize it all. She visualized the dress moving and how the sequins would be “catching the light”.
Chicago isn’t the only musical with this experience. Auckland Live program development manager Georgina Cervin says most shows have one audio described performance.
“We feel like the arts are for everyone, and we work really hard to remove the barriers that exist to people taking part in those experiences,” she says.