West News Wire: Eugene Lee, the “Saturday Night Live” production designer who won six Emmy Awards and three Tony Awards for his Broadway productions, including the intricate, green-fied Emerald City from “Wicked,” has passed away. He was 83.

According to Trinity Repertory Company, where Lee had worked as a resident artist since 1967 and created sets for more than 100 shows, Lee passed away on Tuesday in Providence, Rhode Island.

A statement from creative director Curt Columbus read, “Eugene Lee was a once-in-a-generation theater artist, one of the greatest minds to ever answer ‘What is theater?'”

His numerous Broadway productions include “Sweeney Todd” and “Merrily We Roll Along,” both of which were written by Stephen Sondheim, “Seussical” from 2001, the “Show Boat” revival from 1994 to 1997, and, most recently, “Amazing Grace.”

His work for the Broadway stage varied from building a seedy Chinese restaurant for David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” to spare, interlocking wood frames for “The Other Place.” His most imaginative work can be seen today in “Wicked,” complete with a smoke-breathing dragon, a giant fantasy clock and a bubble-blowing pendulum that carries a witch.

Lee designed the big clock, based on a mention in the Gregory Maguire novel, and defined his vision by creating a series of moving panels of gears and cog wheels that became the central image for the set. Cued to the music and lighting by computers, the panels and the wheels seem in constant motion during transitions from one song and scene to the next, rolling and sliding along the floor in grooves disguised by clouds of smoke. The clock image envelops all the characters in the Oz story.

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During a set visit in 2004, Lee smiled often when he talked about this project.

“Where else can you build a dragon?” he asked.

Lee was the production designer on “Saturday Night Live” from the show’s premiere until his death. He also led the production design for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and the 2000 television movie “On Golden Pond,” among others. For his work in TV production design, Lee was nominated for 18 Emmys, winning six.

“His contribution to the arts and our culture, at both a local and national level, is massive and he will forever be remembered as one of the giants of the field,” said Lee’s longtime co-designer and assistant Patrick Lynch at Trinity.



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