Friday, March 12, 2010

The Designer Series, part 2

Today, I'm continuing my series on the design awards to talk about sets.  The set is one of the more interesting design aspects of a production in that it is the first thing you both see and notice (I'll talk about this distinction more when I discuss the lighting design category) and sets up your entire visual perception of the show.  Set designers also need to think about issues like storage and movement of various parts that audiences don't usually think about or understand (another discussion topic for the lighting design article).  Anyhow ... nominations for these awards tend to go two types of show.  One is to the smash hits where, basically, everything about the show gets nominated.  The other is a more artsy show, like this season's A Little Night Music or Sunday In the Park With George from a few seasons back.  On that logic, the biggest contenders this year on the musical side are Fela!A Little Night MusicFinian's RainbowRagtimeThe Addams Family, and Memphis.  On the play side, the major contenders are A Behanding in SpokaneA View From the BridgePresent LaughterThe Royal Family, with RaceSuperior Donuts, and Brighton Beach Memoirs on the outside.

Of the musicals, I think all six of the production I have listed have a strong chance at getting nominations.  I think Fela! is definitely getting a nomination in this category because of the mega-hit musical logic.  A Little Night Music and Ragtime were chosen based on the artistic show status, though The Addams Family could easily unseat either of these as a more direct fit to this logic, especially since it is more in line with the big budget, over produced Broadway musical vein.  And, this show may prove to be the Young Frankenstein of the year (that show got a set design nomination seemingly out of the blue).  As for A Little Night Music's mega-hit status, I am not 100% confident putting it into that category because, while it was a great production that most people really liked and has been selling tickets like nobody's business, I wonder how much of that is because of the show's quality or if it's because of the stunt casting of Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones, compared to Fela!, which has no major stars and yet is still selling tickets as though they were printing money.  I have given the last slot to Finian's Rainbow because it manages to be in both categories at once -- the artsy mega-hit.  This show, however, is one I can easily see being dethroned in this category by Memphis, a big hit that deserves to be a big hit but may not get as much recognition as it deserves.

As for the plays, Present Laughter and A View From the Bridge are pretty much certain to get set design nominations because of their solid hit status.  A Behanding in Spokane is in on the artsy show
 that got praise for its set logic.  Even though the show got panned for it's script and many of its actors, it WAS praised for Christopher Walken's performance and the brilliance of its set in setting the mood and matching his performance.  The last slot I have given to The Royal Family because of its similarity to the first two predicted nominees in the category.  A two tiered set of an apartment, much like Present Laughter, of a show taking place in the same time period as both of the other shows and which has lots of people running around and through it, much like A View From the Bridge.  It is clearly the weakest contender in the category, though, with its biggest threat being the much liked Brighton Beach Memoirs, which has going for it the artsy-show-that-didn't-last-long logic.  Superior Donuts and Race also have small chances at getting nominations, so they are on my radar, but I think it is highly unlikely that either of these two shows will succeed in this category.

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