Turn the lights down low, chain the door, and pour yourself a drink because we’re sitting down with lighting designer and living legend Ken Billington. Ken and Cory cover a wide range of topics from his biggest hit, “Chicago”, to his newest project, “Act One”, and other shows from his over 40 years in the business including “Footloose”, “Chaplin”, “The Visit”, “Sweeney Todd” and more. Ken tells us about learning the ropes from Tharon Musser, why you better be fast in a room with Hal Prince, how he introduced Bob Fosse to the magic of moving lights and why you should tuck in that shirt for goodness sakes! (Warning…management is not responsible for you walking into traffic while having your mind blown.)
Ken Billington lit his first Broadway show in 1973, The Visit, directed by Harold Prince. His 40 year span of work on Broadway includes Act One, Chaplin, The Scottsboro Boys, Sondheim on Sondheim, Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway, Looped, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Finian’s Rainbow, The Story of My Life, High Fidelity, [title of show], The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, Footloose, Candide (1997), Annie (1997), Annie Warbucks, Inherit the Wind, Moon Over Buffalo, The Red Shoes, Fiddler on the Roof (1990, 81,76), Lettice and Lovage, Tru, Meet Me in St. Louis, On the 20th Century, Side by Side by Sondheim and many others. He has been honored with seven Tony award nominations and received the 1997 Tony Award for his work on Chicago. His Tony nominations include: Sunday in the Park with George (2008), The Drowsy Chaperone (2006), End of the World (1984), Foxfire (1982), Sweeney Todd (1979), Working (1978), and The Visit (1973). His Off-Broadway credits include Fame, The Thing About Men, Sylvia, London Suite, Annie Warbucks, Lips Together, Teeth Apart, The Lisbon Traviata, Snoopy and Fortune in Men’s Eyes.
Ken works in all forms of theatrical lighting including opera, dance, concerts and spectaculars. 13 productions for the NY City Opera including: Candide, the American premiers of Silverlake, The Voice of Ariadne and Ashmedai. For the Houston Grand Opera 31 productions including the world premier of Willie Stark and Aida for the opening of the Worthem Center Brown Theatre. Other companies include Dallas Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, San Francisco Opera, La Scala, Theatro Real in Madrid and Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires.
Some of the great entertainers that Ken has lit include Ann-Margret, Shirley MacLane, Liberace, Sigfried and Roy, Juliet Prowse, Chita Rivera and Lisa Minelli to name just a few. For 27 years the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular had lighting by Ken Billington as well as the annual Easter Show. Other spectaculars include the relighting of Jubilee at Bally’s Las Vegas in 2004, Fantasmic! at Disneyland, Shamu Rocks at the Seaworld Parks and Illuminights at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
Ken has been received many awards including the Ace Award for Television Lighting, the Luman Award for Architectural Lighting and many theatre awards including the Tony, NY Drama Desk, Los Angeles Drama Critics and Boston Drama Critics.