Larry Lelli

Come from Away, which was nominated for seven Tony awards in 2017, is one of Broadway’s most popular shows. In-house contractor for the drum chair Larry Lelli tells us how his sonic decisions make an impact on the audience. “We really nerd out on this stuff, because it’s important,” he says. “Even if the people don’t walk away saying, ‘Wow, that guy used his ten-cymbal setup beautifully,’ they know that they’ve had a full musical experience.”

Lelli has been part of the show since the beginning. “During rehearsals, I worked closely with the music composer, orchestrator, and supervisor to make sure we had the right drum sound for what they were trying to deliver,” he says. “The show is based in Newfoundland, so the music is a mix of Celtic, bluegrass, country, and pop. They wanted a warm, earthy, round tone from the drums with a modern punch. So we decided on a Yamaha Absolute Hybrid Maple kit. We went through at least twelve snares and ended up choosing the 5.5×14 brass because it reminded the orchestrator of Steve Gadd recordings, which he loved.

“After choosing the drums, I had an idea of what the cymbals should sound like,” Lelli continues. “The Sabian Artisan series offers so many tones and colors, so they were the obvious choice. They are especially good for cymbal rolls and scrapes. Also, the O-Zone crashes are used in scary and suspenseful moments. I have several different sizes, and they bring a lot of character to the score.”

Lelli is very conscious of supporting the music with his parts. “I’m constantly doing what I call ‘text painting,’” he says, “to create a film-score presence underneath everything. Each song tells a story and is advancing the plot, so every sound we choose is for a specific reason.”

Larry shares percussive responsibilities with a cast member who plays bodhrán, an Irish frame drum. “The producers were looking for ethereal sounds,” Lelli says, “so that’s where I pulled out the finger cymbals and various hand percussion. We brought in the LP Octo-Snare cajon because the low- end frequencies of a traditional cajon conflicted with the bodhrán. Because the bodhrán is covering a low-end rumble for most of the show, we wrote parts using Rutes, brushes, and rods to add some high-end frequencies to complement those rhythms.”

Lelli’s kit is isolated inside a soundproof booth so that the front-of-house engineer can give the audience a perfect mix. Larry views the cast and conductor through video monitors, and he relies on a pair of UltraPhones for his audio. “They provide the best monitor sound I’ve ever heard out of a pair of headphones,” he insists.

Larry Lelli Gearing

Drums: Yamaha Absolute Hybrid Maple in red finish
A. 5.5×14 Recording Custom Brass Snare
B. 7×10 tom
C. 8×12 tom
D. 13×14 floor tom
E. 16×20 bass drum

Cymbals: Sabian
1. 15″ Artisan hi-hats
2. 15″ HHX X-Treme crash
3. 20″ HHX O-Zone crash
4. 16″ HHX O-Zone crash
5. 10″ HHX Evolution splash
6. 16″ HHX X-Treme crash
7. 16″ Artisan crash
8. 21″ Vault Crossover ride
9. 17″ Artisan crash
10. 18″ HHX O-Zone cras

Percussion: Sabian 4 triangle, high and low suspended finger cymbals, and a pair of low handheld finger cymbals; 11 LP Galaxy djembe, Octo-Snare cajon, and Twist Medium shaker

Hardware: Yamaha Hexrack II system with 800 series booms, FP9500C chain-drive pedal, HS1200 hi-hat stand, and SS950 snare stand; Roc-N-Soc hydraulic throne with a backrest

Sticks: Vic Firth AS5A sticks with ball tip, Split and Jazz wire brushes, 5ADT Dual-Tone sticks/mallets, Terry Gibbs Medium mallets, Rutes, and Tala Wands; homemade broom brushes

Drumheads: Remo 11 Nuskyn on djembe, Ambassador Renaissance on rack toms, Emperor Renaissance on floor tom, Ambassador Coated snare batter, and Powerstroke P4 Coated bass drum batter

Accessories: Kelly SHU bass drum mic mount, GK Music UltraPhones headphones, Big Fat Snare Drum dampeners, LP Aspire trap table, LP accessory tray, Vic Firth Stick Caddy and stick bag, Sabian triangle beaters, Remo HK-MUFF bass drum muffling system, and Moongel dampening pads

Electronics: Yamaha DT50S triggers on toms, DT50K trigger on kick, and DT-10 triggers on djembe and cajon