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Monday, December 16, 2019

2019 in Review: The Best of Broadway (and Off) in Technical Theater

Over the past calendar year, we saw 23 shows: 16 on Broadway, 3 off-Broadway and 4 regional productions. They were Assassins (regional - Signature  Theater), A Chorus Line (regional - Signature Theater), Be More Chill, Beetlejuice, Come From Away, Dear Evan Hansen, Fun Home (regional - Baltimore Center Stage), Grand Hotel: The Musical Assassins (regional - Signature Theater), Hadestown, Hamilton, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, King Lear, Little Shop of Horrors (off-Broadway), Merrily We Roll Along (off-Broadway), Moulin Rouge!, Oklahoma!, Puffs (off-Broadway), The Cher Show, The Lightning Thief, The Phantom of the Opera, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, To Kill A Mockingbird, and Tootsie.

Our 2019 in Review continues today with what we felt were the very best in technical theater elements, plus a few "for fun" awards. We have designated 20 categories and 35 winners! As always, please feel free to share your thoughts, disagreements and your own favorites! (Contact us via the addresses above.) Be sure to check out the other columns in this year-end review by tapping the tab above, too!

2019 in Review:
The Best of Broadway (and Off-Broadway)
Technical Theater

Best Prop - Play: The Fool's Phallic Carrot in King Lear 
  • I can't even look at Ruth Wilson without thinking of that root vegetable.



Best Prop - Musical: TIE: The cup in Hadestown and the flower in Hadestown
  • Anybody want a drink? The way they use those cups in the finale are among my favorite theater images ever.
  • Of course, we couldn't overlook that red flower. It is as indelible a thing as the Phantom's mask. It appears magically in the show, is the show's logo, and is on most of their merch. They even gave them away during previews!



Best Turntable: Hadestown
  • A half dozen or so shows that we saw this year used the tried and true turntable. But Hadestown brought it to a new level. It was so integrated into the show along with its central elevator, that it is like another character in the piece.



Best Set Reveal: TIE: Hadestown and Beetlejuice
  • The simplicity of the two-sets-in-one set of Hadestown is simply breathtaking. It is both a small thing and a change of great magnitude. Brilliant. 
  • Meanwhile, the first time the stage transforms into that huge house in Beetlejuice feels so grand and epic. It is also endlessly creative and as funny as the rest of the show.



Best Immersive Set - Play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  • There is so much we'd love to discuss about everything to do with this production, but we promised to #keepthesecrets. At least in this case, there has been a lot written about the complete transformation of the Lyric Theatre into part of the Wizarding World. It is amazing right down to the carpet.


Best Immersive Set - Musical: Moulin Rouge!
  • Sure it creates some sight line issues, but it is so beautiful. The minute you step foot into the house at the Hirschfeld, you leave New York and enter the Parisian landmark. Depending on the day, I like the elephant better than the windmill or the windmill better than the elephant. Then the show starts, and I am in a trance.



Best Set Pieces - Musical: TIE: The Bathtub in Be More Chill and the toilet in The Lightning Thief
  • Detect a theme here? Actually, this might qualify as a director's signature. You know, like Bob Fosse's bowler hats. In this case, the director in question is Stephen Brackett, who not only seems drawn young adult literature as a source for his shows, but also prominently featuring bathroom plumbing fixtures.


The Doctor Zhivago Table Award: The mute red Crock-Pots in Oklahoma!
  • They sit there throughout the show, just tempting those nearby to lift the lids. But, much like the namesake of this award, they sit there. Silently. Watching us watching them...



Best Costumes - Individual Character: Satine in Moulin Rouge!
  • I'd like to have the cash they spent to clothe Karen Olivo in the Spectacular Spectacular. They are worth every penny, too.


Best Costumes - Ensemble: The Workers in Hadestown
  • Sexy and utilitarian. They fit the themes and aesthetic of the piece perfectly.


Best Costumes - Total Show: The Cher Show
  • Who am I to question Bob Mackie? It was a visual feast from start to finish.


Best Costume Change: The transformation from Michael to Dorothy in Tootsie
  • The rest of the show was a yawn, but the physical change was remarkable. It was even interesting to see him take it off.


Best Recycled Costume: Edgar in King Lear
  • Has there ever been a more effective use of newspaper in costuming? It really worked for Sean Carvajal.


Best Non-Human Costume: The Blob in Merrily We Roll Along
  • Leave it to Fiasco Theater to be so creative. Only they could turn some wigs, jackets and dresses on a variety of stands into a mob at a cocktail party and still only use six actual actors!


Best Twirly Costume - Play: The Robes in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  • Can we talk about that wand dance? And how they even used those robes to make scenery changes!


Best Twirly Costume - Musical: The Squip in Be More Chill
  • Just to prove that Jason Tam's Squip could be more delectable than he already was, his costume morphed into a cool metallic computer board that he twirled around in.  Loved it!




Best Lighting Effect - Play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  • The entire two-part production is full of great lighting effects, and there's a doozy of a one that encompasses the whole theater. Wish we could tell you about it... #keepthesecrets
Best Lighting Effect - Musical: The upper mezzanine of Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
  • For once a show thought about the folks in the cheap seats! To be fair, the view is perfectly fine from there. But it was super cool to see a jumbo-tron hanging above us with concert lighting and live footage during the concert scenes. Well done!
Best Projections - Play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  • The entire two-part production is full of great projections, and there's a doozy of a one that encompasses the whole theater. Wish we could tell you about it... #keepthesecrets

Best Projections - Musical: Oklahoma!
  • Video accompanied and enhanced several scenes, but the in-the-dark smokehouse scene had to be why people call this "Sexy Oklahoma!"
Best Special Effect - Modern: The Dementors in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  • Made Peter Pan look positively medieval.

Best Special Effect - Old School: The toilet paper in The Lightning Thief
  • Though some called it "cheap," we prefer to think of all of the special effects for this show as "quaint, creative and old school." Maybe because when it was over, I was wrapped like a mummy in my seat, but I have a special affection for the toilet paper cannons.
Best Sound Effects - Play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  • We sound like a broken record here. But the sound effects only added to this amazing experience.
Best Sound Effects - Musical: The Lightning Thief
  • From the minute you walked into the Longacre, your ears got right to work. Talk about setting a mood and keeping it going!

Best Blood - Off-Broadway: Little Shop of Horrors
  • Who knew blood spatter could be such campy fun?

Best Blood - Broadway: Oklahoma!
  • Who knew blood spatter could be so poignant and culturally on point.

Best Puppets - Off-Broadway: Audrey II - Little Shop of Horrors
  • Well, duh. 

Best Puppets - Broadway: The Monsters - The Lightning Thief
  • There's a puppet creation credit in their Playbill, but these aren't the Avenue Q kind. These are The Lion King kind, albeit scaled down and much less expensive. But we dare you to find a better Minotaur on Broadway!


 2019 in Review:
Special Honors
Technical Theater




The Unsung Hero Award: TIE: The Chili Servers at Oklahoma! and the Costume Staff at Moulin Rouge!
  • Imagine serving hundreds in around 15 minutes. Then imagine those hundreds as bewildered-by-what-they-saw and oh so entitled. The servers are saints.

  • So there must be hundreds of costumes to maintain at the Spectacular Spectacular. Imagine having to clean, press and repair them every day - sometimes twice a day. And then there's mid-show maintenance I'm sure. Bravo to you all.



Best Re-Vision: Oklahoma!
  • Call it "sexy Oklahoma!" if you want. Call it disturbing and scary. But rarely has a concept been so fully and completely realized at every level and aspect. This was an important, course-changing revival of a classic work of art.



Technical Theater Hall of Fame: The Phantom of the Opera
  • This production is as crisp and clean as the day it opened. The costumes, sets, lighting and effects are pristine. And the show deck looks showroom new. Harold Prince must be looking on with such pride. Would that shows that have been open less than a year looked this good, let alone 30+.
Scenic and costume design: Maria Bjornson     
Lighting design by Andrew Bridge     Sound design by Martin Levan
Special Make-Up created and designed by Christopher Tucker

#2232

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