a theatre, film & pop culture review
Note: My personal rankings are listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite, while predictions for the actual winners will be in orange.
Every time I tackle these sound categories, I become more and more self-conscious. For some reason, these blogs bring out the Broadway professionals who, luckily, have been generous with their explications of the craft, but even so: This category is still a super-struggle for my critical abilities. So, if you’re a sound designer (I know y’all are out there), please continue to be kind.
“Every musical has an essential sound – a sound it SHOULD be conveying. Did the designer do so successfully?”
“The only way to evaluate the sound designer’s work is whether there was clarity and warmth”
– these are the guidelines I’m working with, folks. That’s it.
The only sound design I remember clearly (hating) is first-time nominee Kai Harada’s work on Follies. Entering the Marquis was like walking into a bad haunted house, and while I’m sure I was meant to hear an eerie wind, what I actually experienced was cheesetastic ghosty effects wafting past the just-as-cheesily adorned walls of the theatre house. It pains me to say that, as Harada created the sound for LaChiusa’s The Wild Party (so I have a fondness in my heart for him, just by association), but while I’m also fully aware of the hot mess that is the Marquis’s acoustics, it has to be admitted that, sitting in the back half of the theatre’s balcony, I had a hard time discerning lyrics, so that’s a no-go for me (though I blame some of the performers for that as well).
A double nominee last year, Brian Ronan won for his sparkling work on The Book of Mormon. Unfortunately, Nice Work If You Can Get It is not God’s Favorite Musical, and folks are likely to shy away from awarding him a second time in a row for this, a less-than-stellar Gerswhin-songbook musical — even if the songs sound bright (though the actors don’t — but that’s not his fault..).
Speaking of Gershwin: always a nominee and never a winner, Acme Sound Partners has more than a decent shot of finally taking home a Tony for the group’s crisply clear work with the warm and earthy tones of the operatic Porgy and Bess. At the time of production, Acme was made up of sound gurus Tom Clark, Mark Menard, and Nevin Steinberg, but Steinberg has since left to pursue a career as an independent designer — will this alter their aural mojo, one wonders? (Their work on Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo was haunting.)
Clive Goodwin makes his Broadway debut with Once — and there’s more than a good chance the show will also mark his first Tony win. Broadway’s subtle charmer (according to most, anyway), Once is provided a simple amplification by Goodwin, who carefully allows its folksy tunes and ballads a more intuitive than earnest inflection. And, unlike co-nominee Follies, the few effects utilized here — seagulls and crashing waves — are refreshingly natural and effective. The popular and critical favorite (and the one not hated by Sondheim), Once has a leg up on the competition in most of its nominated categories.