As any actor knows, one of the warmest places on earth is a stage bathed in light. It’s an uncommon, artificial reality that isn’t any less palpable merely because the phenomenon happens indoors. In the right hands, the power of theater lighting to replicate that which we take for granted—a field at sunrise, a vesper-tinged twilight—can compensate for feelings that go unsaid on the page.
With news of the death of Tharon Musser, the stages of New York will feel a touch darker for audiences and performers alike. Extraordinary is the only way to describe her gifts, or the cold-sweat excitement I’ve experienced witnessing her work in plays and musicals. What would A Chorus Line’s “At the Ballet” be without her ghostly delineations of shadow and light? Could anyone else get my heart pounding the way she managed when the curtain went up to reveal an astounding wall of blue effervescence in the second act of the original production of Dreamgirls, or break it, as the lights dimmed on Jeremy Irons’s delicious boogie coda in1984’s The Real Thing?
Moments like those spoke louder than songs or words. Sometime soon the lights on Broadway will dim in tribute, but tonight I plan to light a candle in gratitude for all those nights Ms. Musser made it a pleasure to see. RIP.