After 36 Broadway productions over 27 years, John Gromada, who has created soundscapes for dozens of productions at Hartford Stage, Westport Country Playhouse and Long Wharf Theatre, is nominated for his first Tony Award for his work in the play “The Trip To Bountiful,” under the director of longtime collaborator Michael Wilson, former artistic director of Hartford Stage.
But what appears to be a major slight really isn’t one; the category of sound design award was only created four years ago
“I’m comfortable with being in the background,” says the soft-spoken, low-key Gromada from his home in Nyack, N.Y. The mood-setting sound and music design creates “an elegant frame [for the production] and though audience members aren’t supposed to be aware of it, it sometimes gets into their heads.”
This is especially true with the emotionally rich sound design of “Bountiful,” which received four nominations including best revival. “I was especially proud of the moment when the character of Carrie Watts [played by Tony-nominated Cicely Tyson] finally arrives at [her hometown] Bountiful.” As Mother Watts finally makes it to the end of her journey, she finds herself alone, speechless on stage for an extended time as she takes in the memories and the meaning of her life.
“It’s always a delicate balance in the theater,” says Gromada. “You don’t want to play directly into the sentiment. But in this case the play is all about nostalgia and her past life and it seemed that we could get away with it a bit more. It helps support her sense of the past at that moment.”
For the production, Gromada also tapped into hymns and in one memorable scene at the train station, Tyson and a fellow traveler [played by Tony Award-nominated Condola Rashad] break out into a rousing hymn “Blessed Assurance” that is so joyous that even some theatergoers feel the urged to sing along.
It also happens to be the favorite hymn of Tyson’s mother and the playwright Horton Foote and Gromada weaves its melody line in the show’s underscoring, making it also more meaningful to the production.
Some of Gromada’s musical scoring for show such as “The Orphans’ Home Cycle,” “Seminar” and “Measure for Measure” at the Delacourt Theater in Central Park, are available on iTunes and Amazon.comCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun