Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

2012 Tony Awards: Best Sound Design for a Play

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.

BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A PLAY

1. PETER AND THE STARCATCHER
Darron L. West

2. END OF THE RAINBOW
Gareth Owen

3. ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS
Paul Arditti

DEATH OF A SALESMAN
Scott Lehrer 

Should be here: Nevin Steinberg,  Magic/Bird

For his work on Death of a Salesman, Scott Lehrer has earned his fourth Tony nomination in five years (he won in 2008 for the hugely successful Lincoln Center revival of South Pacific). I didn’t get to see the show, but no one seems to really be talking about Lehrer’s work here, so I think it’s fair to say he’s not in the running.

Gareth Owen has only designed two Broadway shows, but he’s been nominated for both. For the other,  A Little Night Music in 2009, Owen became the youngest individual ever to be nominated for a Tony Award for Sound Design, or so he claims (for the life of me, I couldn’t find a birthdate for him anywhere, but we’ll take him at his word). That in and of itself is pretty impressive, and he definitely has a shot at usurping Peter‘s crown: For End of the Rainbow, the very natural-sounding hotel scenes are subtly amplified whenever Tracie Bennett’s voracious Judy Garland transforms the stage into a concert venue and her backup orchestra appears upstage.

The Tony Award-winning sound designer of Billy Elliot, Paul Arditti works consistently on both sides of the pond, but unfortunately hasn’t much of a shot here for his work on the fantastically funny One Man, Two Guvnors. The majority of Arditti’s work consists of amplifying composer Grant Olding’s skiffle score, which is infused throughout the show. The Craze quartet entertains pre- and post-show and covers scene changes, and whether onstage with standing mikes or sitting in the front of house, the music — rockabilly and bluegrass to Beatles-like pop — infiltrates with a clear and happy energy that befits, but doesn’t overwhelm, the frantically silly farce.

Stars that chime with a twinkle as they appear. A ticking time-bomb of a crocodile. Gusty winds that force a ship to wreck amidst crashing waves. Darron L. West not only aurally cultivates and clarifies Wayne Barker’s mer-diddies and pirate shanties, but he sprinkles stardust and sparkle throughout, creating a soundscape that is just as magical and entrancing as its youthful subject, Peter Pan. Peter and the Starcatcher is by far the most design-heavy show, making it easy for voters to recall, with delight, how its sparkling sound perfectly complemented this charming show.

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