Gilman grad wins Tony Award for lighting design of 'The Great Comet'

Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Bradley King, the Gilman School alumnus whose Broadway debut working on “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” earned him a Tony Award on Sunday night for best lighting design of a musical, hasn’t entirely absorbed the experience.

“It’s starting to sink in,” said King, who got home around 5 a.m. Monday from various after-parties. “My head’s still in the clouds. I have very little memory of what happened last night.”

The 33-year-old Towson native, who settled in New York after graduating from Gilman in 2002, has been an integral member of the “Comet” team since the first iteration of the musical.

That was in 2012 at Ars Nova, a theater on the far West side of Manhattan seating less than 100 people. After various incarnations, the musical, based on a portion of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” opened on Broadway last fall starring Josh Groban.

“Comet” had the most nominations — 12 — going into the Tonys; King and set designer Mimi Lien were the only winners.

“It’s the unicorn show you dream of finding,” King said. “When we started, it was a mess and it was joyful. We knew it was special, but I don’t think anyone thought it would go this far.”

“Comet” is one of about a dozen shows directed by Rachel Chavkin that King has collaborated on; their years at New York University “slightly overlapped,” he said. “She’s a genius I will follow wherever she goes.”

That includes the musical “Hadestown,” adapted from a folk opera concept album by Anais Mitchell. It was performed Off-Broadway last year. King will work with Chavkin on a possibly Broadway-bound staging in November at a theater in Alberta, Canada.

A fall project with celebrated director and producer Jack O’Brien is also in the works. That play, “The Hard Problem,” is set for a staging in New York, which means King will get more time at home with his wife and 2-1/2-year-old daughter.

“We get to Baltimore frequently,” King said. “My wife loves Baltimore; she’s from New Orleans. And my daughter loves visiting her grandparents — my parents live in Pikesville.”

King got the theater bug at Gilman, where, in his senior year, he directed a musical written by a schoolmate. He went to New York State University to study acting and directing. He found himself drawn more to directing, before making yet another choice after trying his hand at designing the lighting for several student productions.

“I really enjoyed that," King said, “and not having people looking at you waiting for the answer.”

After King won his Tony — this was his first nomination — he celebrated. And celebrated.

“It’s the weirdest mix,” he said of the festivities. “Half-prom, half-your wedding is the best way I can describe it. It was a long night.”

King wasn’t the only Baltimore-area native up for recognition at the 2017 Tony Awards — Andy Karl, who grew up in Timonium and attended Towson High School, was nominated for best leading actor in a musical for “Groundhog Day.” Karl lost out to Ben Platt of “Dear Evan Hansen,” which won the night with six awards, including best musical.

“The Great Comet,” which was nominated for 12 awards, also won the Tony for best scenic design of a musical.

Kevin Spacey, the star of Baltimore-filmed “House of Cards,” was the host of the awards show.

You can find a complete list of winners here.

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