Tharon Musser, Tony-Winning Lighting Designer, Dies at 84

Obituaries   Tharon Musser, Tony-Winning Lighting Designer, Dies at 84
Tharon Musser, who won Tony Awards for Best Lighting Design for the landmark shows Follies, A Chorus Line and Dreamgirls, has died after a long illness. She was 84.
Tharon Musser
Tharon Musser

Ms. Musser was born on Jan. 8, 1925, and designed dozens of Broadway shows, garnering ten Tony nominations in all. Her Broadway debut was auspicious enough; it was the original 1956 staging of O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night. She followed that up with such shows as a double bill of Ionesco's The Chairs and The Lesson; The Entertainer; J.B.; Once Upon a Mattress. In the 1960s, she was often connected to serious-minded revivals suchs as Mother Courage and Peer Gynt, and new Edward Albee plays like A Delicate Balance. That changed somewhat after she designed the lighting for the hit 1970 musical Applause. Thereafter, she forged strong connections to leading musical theatre figures such as Stephen Sondheim (Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures), Jerry Herman (Mack & Mabel), John Kander and Fred Ebb (The Act) and, perhaps most importantly, director Michael Bennett. For Bennett, she designed lights for A Chorus Line, Dreamgirls and Ballroom. A Chorus Line was the first Broadway production to utilize a completely computerized lighting console instead of the manually operated "piano boards."

She was also lighting designer of the hit musicals The Boyfriend, The Wiz and 42nd Street.

Another long collaboration was with playwright Neil Simon and his various directors, more often Gene Saks, with whom she worked on California Suite, Chapter Two, I Ought to Be in Pictures, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, Broadway Bound, Rumors, Lost in Yonkers, Jake's Women and Laughter on the 23rd Floor.

Ms. Musser's final lighting design was for The Lonesome West in 1999. Her famous lighting for A Chorus Line was recreated by Natasha Katz for the recent Broadway revival.

She is survived by her long-time partner Marilyn Rennagel.

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