Among his designs were the original Broadway productions of Jersey Boys and Hamilton for which he won the Tony Award in 2006 and 2016, respectively. He also took home an Olivier Award for the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical’s staging in London’s West End in 2018.
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His work can be seen in the Disney+ film of Hamilton at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
Binkley made his Broadway debut as the lighting designer for Kiss of a Spider-Woman in 1993, earning a Tony nomination for his work on the musical set in an Argentine prison. He went on to work on Avenue Q, In The Heights, Come From Away, and Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations, all of them Tony-nominated. He had an overall total of nine Tony nominations during his career.
Born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Binkley attended East Carolina University before moving to New York City in 1978. In 1985, he and choreographer David Parsons founded the Parsons Dance Company, a modern company.
His resume also includes Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, Escape to Margaritaville, Prince of Broadway, Allegiance, Memphis, The Full Monty, and revivals of Gypsy, West Side Story, and Jesus Christ Superstar. His overall scorecard has 52 Broadway shows. His work was also recently seen earlier this year in the world premiere of Fly at La Jolla Playhouse.
Online tributes poured in for Binkley:
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.
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) August 15, 2020
Our beloved friend and collaborator Howell Binkley passed away today. He painted with light and took us to places and times we could only dream of going. One of the finest lighting designers in the business and an even better human being. We will miss him terribly. pic.twitter.com/aipkxvGTXh
— Hamilton (@HamiltonMusical) August 15, 2020
Howell Binkley was a frequent collaborator & a dear friend. He was a genius & a giant. A true artist & the most lovely and generous soul. This is an extraordinary loss. #HowellBinkley
— David Korins (@DavidKorins) August 14, 2020
I’m incredibly sad to learn that my friend and iconic lighting designer #HowellBinkley has passed away. His talent was a gift to our community. My constant cheerleader during @DonnaSummerBway despite being in a raging battle w/ lung cancer.
— Ariana DeBose (@ArianaDeBose) August 14, 2020
So sorry to hear this!!
Howell Binkley: a master lighting designer and a light. Loved the man. RIP good brother https://t.co/qc7lK9e9nX
— Leslie Odom, Jr. (@leslieodomjr) August 15, 2020
Howell Binkley was a genius and a kind man. ❤️❤️❤️
— Iain Armitage (@IainLoveTheatre) August 14, 2020
OMG!! Shocked & saddened to read this. I loved Howell Binkley & was honored to get to work with him in “Camino Real” (1999), my Signature Theatre Concert (2013) & “Grey Gardens” in LA (2026) all directed by Michael Wilson. Binkley was such a lovely man. Gone too soon. Only 64. https://t.co/CFGkks2Ugg
— Betty Buckley (@BettyBuckley) August 14, 2020
Thinking of Howell Binkley and his family. What a loss. What a giant talent. What a kind soul. He lit up – from the inside. You will he so missed, my friend.
— Telly Leung (@tellyleung) August 14, 2020
Howell Binkley was a legend. He made magic with lights for theaters all over this country. The world is dimmer without him in it. Rest In Peace, Howell. Thank you for sharing your gift for design and beauty with us.
— IATSE Local 22 (@IATSELocal22) August 15, 2020
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