Stage Door News

Toronto: Royal Alexandra Theatre to dim its marquee lights in honour of lighting designer Howell Binkley

Monday, August 17, 2020

Mirvish Productions mourns the death of Howell Binkley, one of the premier lighting designers in the world. He died August 14, 2020 in North Carolina, his wife, Joyce, told the Winston-Salem Journal. He was 64 and had lung cancer.

In honour of Howell Binkley, the lights of the Royal Alexandra and Princess of Wales Theatre will be dimmed on Tuesday, August 18 at 8 pm.

When theatres were closed by the pandemic, Howell had shows playing in theatres around the world.

In Toronto, he had three shows on stage: Come From Away at the Royal Alexandra; Hamilton at the Ed Mirvish, and Summer: The Donna Summer Musical at the Princess of Wales Theatre.

Howell made his Broadway debut as the lighting designer for Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1993, earning his first Tony nomination. That production began in Toronto in 1992.

He went on to work on over 100 shows, including Avenue Q, In The Heights, Come From Away, Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations, Escape to Margaritaville, Prince of Broadway, Allegiance, Memphis, The Full Monty, and revivalsof Gypsy, West Side Story, and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Howell was nominated nine times for Best Lighting Design Tonys and won twice: in 2006 for Jersey Boys and in 2016 for Hamilton. He also won, Dora, Olivier, Hayes and many other awards.

Born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Howell attended East Carolina University before moving to New York City in 1978.  In 1985, he and choreographer David Parsons founded the modern dance company -  Parsons Dance Company

Howell's designs used saturated colour, accompanied by white or slightly cool highlights, smoke or haze to draw attention to angles, and cross focussing to create diamond effects. He was a frequent collaborator with directors Des McAnuff, Hal Prince and Thomas Kail.

Online tributes to Howell have included:

David Hein (@SankoffandHein): "I have a degree in lighting design and Howell Binkley’s work was the best in the world. I remember telling Irene I would’ve watched Hamilton with the sound off just to watch his lighting. We were so so lucky to have him on Come From Away."

Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel): "Howell. Thank you for Benny & Nina's sunrise. Thank you for Hamilton's hurricane & Burr's self-made walls. Thank you for sculpting in light & elevating every moment you touched. Where will I hide now if not at your tech table? I miss your smile & kindness already. Rest easy pal.”

Photo: Howell Binkley. © 2016.