Bob Crowley, Aida
Bob Crowley designed both the sets and costumes for Aida and has been nominated for both. Born in Ireland, Crowley has worked on dozens of shows for the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatre. He's already won one Tony (Carousel) and been nominated for four others (Les Liaisons Dangereuses, The Capeman, The Iceman Cometh, Twelfth Night). His next project is the musical, The Witches of Eastwick.
Thomas Lynch, The Music Man
Thomas Lynch has a previous Tony nomination to his credit -- for The Heidi Chronicles -- and a long list of Broadway designs on his resume, including Having Our Say, My Favorite Year and The Young Man From Atlanta. 1999-2000 saw Lynch design The Music Man, Swing and Contact. A 1999 Obie winner for sustained excellence, he has also worked in regional theatre (two Joseph Jefferson Awards) and opera (Santa Fe, Seattle, NY City Opera) than on Broadway.
Robin Wagner, Kiss Me, Kate
Inducted this year into the Theatre Hall of Fame, Wagner has designed the sets for such legendary productions as Dreamgirls, 42nd Street, A Chorus Line and Angels in America. Tony nominations include Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), Dreamgirls Jelly's Last Jam, Angels in America -- Millennium Approaches and -- his only win -- On The Twentieth Century. Wagner is also currently represented on Broadway by Saturday Night Fever.
Tony Walton, Uncle Vanya
A three-time winner (Pippin, The House of Blue Leaves, the recent Guys and Dolls revival), costume and set designer Tony Walton boasts more than a dozen Tony nominations to his credit, including She Loves Me (revival) and The Will Rogers Follies. He's designed for opera and ballet and has begun a side-line directing career.
Analysis: Bob Crowley's sets for Aida have actually induced gasps of pleasure in audiences, from the cream colored, modern museum that opens the show, to a giant vertical swimming pool (complete with diver). Tony voters might well reward his work for two reasons: the show's original set, out of town, was seen as a major detraction and was scrapped in favor of Crowley's new design. Also, little else in Aida (excepting Heather Headley and, to a lesser extent, Sherie Rene Scott) has received any kind of critical acclaim, so Crowley's plaudits may be strongly noted. Conversely, The Music Man has received so much acclaim for so many elements, Thomas Lynch's work -- which was not universally praised by critics -- might get overlooked as being part of the overall excellence of the show. In several categories, Kiss Me, Kate is essentially going head-to-head with The Music Man, so if either musical starts to steamroll, it may take the design nod, too. Critics have been mixed on both Uncle Vanya and Tony Walton's set, which some have carped has elements closer to a cozy log cabin than a deteriorating Russian dacha. Aida's dazzle may just beat out Kate's realistic but playful backstage world. -- By David Lefkowitz