Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

2012 Tony Awards: Best Lighting Design for a Musical

Note: My personal rankings are listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite, while predictions for the actual winner will be in orange.

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN FOR A MUSICAL

1. GHOST THE MUSICAL
Hugh Vanstone

2. ONCE
Natasha Katz

3.  FOLLIES
Natasha Katz

4. THE GERSHWINS’ PORGY AND BESS
Christopher Akerlind 

Despite all the initial brouhaha about Ms. Parks’s Porgy and Bess, little of the this revival is actually memorable, the least of which being Christopher Akerlind’s one-toned lighting design (he also lit the equally forgettable End of the Rainbow). But hey, I guess as long as the actors can be seen, a design is award-worthy, eh?

Then again, sometimes drowning the performers in darkness can get you nominated too. Natasha Katz’s lighting for the appallingly messy revival of Follies was three-toned — dark, darker, and darkest — all but hiding the actors and Gregg Barnes’s gloriously bejeweled  (Tony-nominated) costumes. Believe it or not, there is a way to light those peskily translucent spirits without losing them in the shadows…

And once again, the British megamusical comes in for the win. One of the busiest production designs of the season, the sheer number of effects that Ghost the Musical packs into one show is a marvel. While clearly aided by all the fog and LED screens and illusions, Hugh Vanstone’s lighting complements his co-designer’s well, in a mutually beneficial relationship that cleverly pulls attention away when necessary (i.e. Hey! Where’d that body come from?!), and that grounds the living in solid tones and etherealizes the dearly departed in wispy shades and shadows.

But no one likes Ghost, so the Tony will likely go to Once for Natasha Katz’s much more subtle and evocative work that creates a an authentic and earthy atmosphere for the meet-cute.

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