Theater archives

Broadway’s Most Honored Set Designer


This season it’s David Rockwell, who has two, count ’em two, Tony nominations–one for the factory/nightclub set of Kinky Boots and another for the ’80s newsroom ambience of Lucky Guy.

This week’s column contains my chat with various Tony nominees like Tom Hanks and Cicely Tyson, whom I interviewed at a meet-and-greet that was a production of its own, full of gratitude and moist eyes.

But I also spoke with Rockwell, who said he made the Kinky shoe factory swivel around and become the nightclub, so “the environment becomes a commonality between two worlds.”

Interestingly, the big treadmill number wasn’t that easy to pull off, though. Rockwell told me they couldn’t just get a treadmill that would do what they wanted. He had to do tons of research and then create it from scratch, which took all of nine months (the common gestation period for a lot of things, it seems). But when the boots are conveyor-belted out–not to mention the drag queens–it’s a hot moment.

Rockwell did a lot of research for Lucky Guy too, and learned that newsrooms share a sort of “smoke-filled compression.” As the story shifts from one NYC tabloid to another, there’s no treadmill this time; he has props and pieces being moved by the actors to create the next environment. “It’s all about fluidity,” Rockwell explained to me. “The movement is part of the storytelling.”

I love Broadway.