Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

2011 Tony Awards: Best Lighting Design of a Musical

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 LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL

1. The Scottsboro Boys

2. The Book of Mormon

3. Anything Goes

4. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Missing: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

For better or worse — mostly worse in this case — How to Succeed‘s lighting design is the most memorable. The most prolific of the nominees, Howell Binkley (Tony winner for Jersey Boys, with four other shows currently running on Broadway including Memphis and Baby, It’s You!), employed a legion of LED lights for a rapid-fire, relentlessly vibrant design. Sure, the pastel hues add to the pert ’60s game-show vibe, which is enhanced by the hexagonal set and easter-egg colored costumes, but Loesser and Burrow’s corporate satire is busy enough without this kind of lighting overload. (Instead, Justin Townsend’s wild assortment of chasers, blinder cues and striking sidelighting for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson should have been recognized here.)

Tony-winning designer of Contact and The Producers, as well as the current Born Yesterday, Peter Kaczoroswski crafted a design for Anything Goes that is also colorful, but in more tasteful way, subtly supporting the passable revival production.

The Scottsboro Boys, originally designed at the Vineyard Theatre by Kevin Adams (Tony winner for American Idiot, The 39 Steps, Spring Awakening), was lit by Ken Billington (Sweeney Todd, Chicago) for the Broadway transfer. Reinforced by Beowulf Borritt’s sleek, spare set, the lighting fluently shifts from colder, restrained tones during “serious” scenes of dialogue between the accused boys, to exaggeratedly theatrical looks for the minstrel portions with crisp spotlights and washes of vibrant colors. The design isn’t exactly subtle  — but neither is minstrelsy — and the obvious switches in tone are well-conceived.

The most accomplished of the bunch, Brian MacDevitt’s contributions this season include House of Blue Leaves and Women on the Verge, and he’s won Tonys for Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (a warm, gorgeous design), Pillowman, Coast of Utopia and Into the Woods. Packed with clever details, The Book of Mormon includes some excessive mirrorball effects to accentuate Elder Price’s “epiphanies” and hilariously-timed blackouts in a tap number about repressed Mormons (“Turn It Off”). Much like the show itself, the lighting is playful and pointed without ever being too over-the-top, so if anyone’s to beat Billington, it’ll be MacDevitt for his witty work.

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This entry was posted on May 27, 2011 by in Award Predictions, Broadway, Lighting Design, Theatre, Tony Awards.

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