Best of Year

Rockwell Group Snags Two Tony Nominations

With no fewer than 13 Tony nominations under their belt for 2003's Hairspray its no surprise that Rockwell Group has scored two more for their work on Kinky Boots and Lucky Guy. The Broadway shows, though quite different in character, both share a glittering team of stars including Tom Hanks and Cyndi Lauper as well as studied, evocative sets.

Jerry Mitchell's Kinky Boots revolves around the story of Charlie Price and the ebullient drag queen, Lola, in their efforts to save the shoe factory owned by Charlie's family. Taking inspiration from old photographs, Rockwell Group captures the gritty, iron-clad industrial feeling of a late 19th-century factory with tinted windows and movable, machine-like units that actors interact with throughout the performance.

"Building the whole thing took two years. I went to fitness industrial places to see if gym equipment would work. It didn’t because the dancers dance to different rhythms," says David Rockwell, founder and CEO, Rockwell Group. The modular units shift and roll to reveal various scenes from the main factory, to night clubs, to a final grand transformation where conveyor belts become a runway and a dazzling "Bubble Light Wall" adorns the International Milan Shoe Fair.

For Lucky Guy, Rockwell employs a sparser, rawer aesthetic with shifting LED wall panels and a pivoting, gridded ceiling as the primary structures. Minimal pieces of bar and office furniture and alternating video projections of newspaper headlines help set the scenes, and liberal use of a smoke machine throughout the performance completes a look highly evocative of the rough-around-the-edges journalism scene in late 20th-century New York. Though simpler in form than Kinky Boots, the attention to detail and spot-on accuracy of the typical newsroom make the design a hit. Rockwell says, “It’s messiness. Early monitors on the desks. Shifting images. Graffiti-filled world. Changes go from early to later years.”
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