Theatregoers who speak French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish will be able to hear summaries of scenes in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway during the show, owing to a new technology installed at the venerable Palace Theatre.
The ShowTrans system, developed by the National Institute for Special Need Audiences, debuted the new system June 5. The system was designed by F. Richard Fitzgerald, president of Sound Associates, who also designed the Infrared Listening System, which has been aiding hearing-impaired theatregoers on Broadway for a decade.
ShowTrans also works in much the same way. Theatregoers rent the equipment, choose the language of their choice, then listen to commentary -- though not a word-for-word translation -- explaining what's going on as the show progresses.
Initially, ShowTrans will focus on musicals, where, the company says, a complete translation is not necessary.
Systems like ShowTrans are already in use in Tokyo and other countries, but marks a first for Broadway. The Institute was founded by Susan Lee, T. Richard Fitzgerald and Anne Tramon.