Thursday, July 2, 2020

BEST OF THE DECADE: Favorite Scenic Designs

Earlier this week, we named (what we thought, anyway) the Best of the Decade's projection design. That technical element is the newest in theatrical design. This week, we name our favorites in the area of an older, traditional element: scenic design. It has been interesting to watch how projections have continue to evolve, and, importantly, how they have become integrated into scenic design.  As we considered which shows to include, we thought about the creativity and ingenuity brought to the stage, creating a new world in which to immerse the audience. Of course, we also gave thought to arguably the most important thing - how the set design supports the script, its themes, and the overall concept of the piece.

Jeff and Mike's Favorite
Scenic Designs


The Glass Menagerie
(2013) - Designed by Bob Crowley

A memory play, this glorious design was a wonder of specificity and cloudy remembrance. The balance between now and then was perfection, even as the action took place entirely on small platforms that seemed to hover over a pool of black water. Less is more here.

Three Tall Women
- Designed by Miriam Buether

Count us both among those who gasped when the lights came up on the set for the second part of the play. How the set managed to be both ice cold and warm, just as A, B and C themselves were, was design gold.

War Horse
- Designed by Rae Smith

In a play with so many spectacular elements, the accomplishment here is that the set didn't overwhelm the production. Instead, it added to the sweeping epic aspect of the story when necessary, and pulled back to allow the focus to be squarely where it belonged when necessary. Brilliant.


Matilda: The Musical 
- Designed by Rob Howell

Walking into the Shubert Theatre was like walking into a child's imagination, perfect for this show. It revealed delight after delight, scare after scare, and it was simply wonderful.

Moulin Rouge!
- Designed by Derek McLane

We were pessimistic that anyone could come up with anything close to the movie version. We couldn't have been more wrong. It is, well, spectacular. The best part for us was that there were plenty of familiar nods to the film, but that McLane embraced the live theatrical element present in the musical. It's always great to see stage designs that show off things that the stage can do that film can't.

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
 - Designed by Mimi Lien

Immersive productions were quite a trend over the past decade. This show took it to a whole new level. I'll never forget walking into the Imperial door and right into a metallic smelling Russian bunker. I'll also never forget walking into the theater itself and right into another world bathed in red, wreaking of opulence and excess.


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