Skip to content

Scenic designer Beowulf Boritt shares his inspiration for his biggest set ever: ‘New York, New York’

With the musical, Boritt earns a nomination for his 30th Broadway credit.

The company of Broadway’s “New York, New York” (Credit: Emilio Madrid)

Tony Award-winning scenic designer Beowulf Boritt has earned his sixth nomination for Best Scenic Design (Play or Musical) with his work on the new musical “New York, New York.”

In the latest “Building Broadway” segment on “The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal,” Boritt talks to Beth Stevens about his concept behind the creation of the show’s set. The goal of Boritt’s scenic design was to elicit the feeling of New York City and visually represent the Big Apple as accurately as possible. Boritt credits the direction and choreography of Susan Stroman as the driving factor of why he was able to achieve this in the way he envisioned.

“It was the kind of idea I knew I could only do with someone like Susan Stroman, who could take that idea and make it dance across the stage beautifully,” said Boritt.

Boritt aimed to display both the glory and the rawness of life in New York City — “the glamor and the beauty, but also what’s difficult and ugly about the city,” he said. Using rustic fire escapes and intricate moments of choreography, Boritt created a duality true to the feeling of the city. He also used massive architecture and clever tricks to create iconic landmarks.

In one scene, Boritt equipped a group of doormen with snow shovels, pushing white drifts across the stage until they raise their shovels in the air and (side-by-side) create Central Park’s Bow Bridge.

“We always knew it would be a love letter to the city,” said Boritt. In fact, Stroman and Boritt used E.B. White’s 1949 essay “Here Is New York” as inspiration. Iit sums up New York so perfectly in a way that is unchanging,” Boritt said.

“It's not ultimately about the architecture, it’s about people,” Boritt continued.”How all these different people come into this crazy place, and we all live on top of each other… That kind of ferment creates the genius and amazingness that is New York City.”

Also in this week’s episode of “The Broadway Show,” Tony nominee Ben Platt talks to Paul Wontorek about his experience playing Leo Frank in the revival of “Parade” and Stevens talks to director Jessica Stone about her work on the Tony-nominated musical “Kimberly Akimbo.”