Plenty of attention is paid to the top races and acting categories at the Tony Awards. But if you are looking to do well in our prediction contest, you will also have to make smart decisions in the below-the-line categories as well. The four design categories often trip up Tony pundits, especially when there is no one show predicted to sweep. There is no single such juggernaut this season, which means upsets and surprises are likely. To provide some help with these tough categories, take a look at the analysis below before you make any final predictions.
Flip a coin, because “Hadestown” and “Beetlejuice” are locked in a neck and neck race here. My gut says David Korins will win for having the “most” scenic design of any musical this season for “Beetlejuice.” It’s an immense set with moving parts, that perfectly captures a twisted Tim Burton vibe while keeping things fresh. However, the Tonys have bizarrely snubbed Korins for many deserving projects before. When “Hamilton” pulled off a near sweep, he was one of the only nominees from the show that didn’t win. And his awesome sets for “Passing Strange,” “Misery,” and Best Musical winner “Dear Evan Hansen” weren’t even nominated.
If Tony voters continue to shun Korins, then Rachel Hauck will take the award for “Hadestown.” Her set appears beautiful but simple at first. But then actors swarm across the stage via turntables and trap doors, and the entire stage seems to split open to drag us down to hell. She also incorporates subtle touches like textured surfaces, which help elevate the lighting design. Hauck also designed “What The Constitution Means to Me” this season, and star Heidi Schreck calls her out by name in that show. Couple this increased exposure and the acclaim for “Hadestown” and Hauck stands an excellent chance of overcoming Korins.
Assuming Stephanie J. Block remains the frontrunner for Lead Actress, can “The Cher Show” really take home two of its three nominations despite not being a Best Musical contender? It sure seems so. And that’s probably because Bob Mackie gets an entire number to parade his extravagant outfits around the stage. The last time a musical won this race without competing for Best Musical or Musical Revival was “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” in 2011. Just like that flashy tuner, no other show this season has as many moments that scream “Hey, look over here at these fabulous costumes!”
Two shows will put up a formidable fight to steal it though. “Hadestown” had less bodies to dress, but Michael Krass arguably created the most unique looks of the bunch. It’s Jazz Age New Orleans meets a hellish steampunk apocalypse. If voters are willing to embrace costumes that are decidedly not glam, then they could reward this Best Musical frontrunner. But, one should never ever count out William Ivey Long. The chairman of the American Theater Wing has had no trouble racking up nine nominations and two wins. He competes for both “Tootsie” and “Beetlejuice,” with the later his best bet. His designs are full of zany sight gags and crusty creatures from the underworld, making it an obvious choice for many ballots.
I feel fairly confident about a win for Bradley King’s evocative lighting in “Hadestown.” His work is showy and is an essential for setting the mood of each sequence. It helps too, that the ensemble swings giant lamps across the stage during Reeve Carney’s powerhouse song “Wait For Me.” It’s an image that is surely burned in the minds of every audience member. This would be King’s second win after claiming victory in this category for his previous effort with Rachel Chavkin, “The Great Comet.”
If voters are bowled over by the sheer volume of design work in “Beetlejuice,” then Kenneth Posner and Peter Nigrini will provide some competition. Especially considering that projection designer Nigrini is on the ballot. At one point he utilizes projection mapping to totally transform the charming house on stage into Beetlejuice’s ghoulish creation. It’s a magical moment that will be remembered.
Some pundits are betting that “King Kong” will take home it’s sole Tony win here, and it’s easy to see why. The show is absolutely a design showcase and probably features the most effects heavy aural landscape of any of the nominees. Plus, Peter Hylenski is a seven-time nominee who has never won (he’s also nominated this year for “Beetlejuice”). However, this category has never be awarded to a musical that’s not nominated for either Best Musical or Musical Revival. Of course, the prize has only been awarded eight previous times, so that stat is bound to be broken one day.
“King Kong” is only the second ever nominee in this category to not contend for one of those top two show prizes. The other? “Side by Side by Sondheim,” which was bested by “Fela!” In that year, “Side by Side” sound designer Dan Moses Schreier was also a double nominee (he provided sound for the revival of “A Little Night Music”). Hylenski’s near identical situation is giving me deja vu, and makes me think another win for “Hadestown” is in store. Nevin Steinberg and Jessica Paz would become the first duo to win this category thanks to a robust New Orleans soundscape with industrial clangs bellowing up from the titular underworld.
Be sure to make your Tony predictions today so that Broadway insiders can see how their shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before winners are announced on June 9. And join in the fun debate over the 2019 Tonys taking place right now in our theater forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.