Local Theater Guys Made Good

Dallas sound designer gets 2014 Tony Award nomination for first-ever theater gig

Dallas sound designer gets Tony Award nom for first-ever theater gig

Tim O'Heir
Dallas resident Tim O'Heir was nominated for Best Sound Design of a Musical for Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Photo by Walter McBride
Neal Patrick Harris in Hedwig and the Angry Itch
O'Heir wanted Hedwig​ to be like a rock concert every night, and his work helped the musical get eight total Tony Award nominations. Hedwig on Broadway/Facebook
Celia Keenan-Bolger and Brian J. Smith in The Glass Menagerie
Celia Keenan-Bolger and Dallas native Brian J. Smith in The Glass Menagerie. Photo by Michael J. Lutch
Tim O'Heir
Neal Patrick Harris in Hedwig and the Angry Itch
Celia Keenan-Bolger and Brian J. Smith in The Glass Menagerie

The nominations for the 2014 Tony Awards were announced Tuesday morning, and if you can get past the bold-faced nominees like Bryan Cranston, Audra McDonald and Neil Patrick Harris, you'll find two men with Dallas connections.

The first is actor Brian J. Smith, nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play for The Glass Menagerie. The 32-year-old Dallas native wowed Elaine Liner in a Collin College production back in 2002, and he has slowly but surely worked his way up the Broadway ladder, culminating in his first Tony nomination.

The second is Tim O'Heir, nominated for Best Sound Design of a Musical for Hedwig and the Angry Inch. If his name doesn't ring a bell, that may be because the Broadway production, which garnered eight total nominations, is his first theater experience — ever.

Married to CultureMap contributor Kendall Morgan and living in Richardson when he's not busy with Hedwig, O'Heir's previous experience includes producing rock albums, recording and mixing film soundtracks, and, most important, working as the sound recording engineer for the movie version of Hedwig​.

That connection with Stephen Trask, the composer of Hedwig, gave him the opportunity to work on the theater production. We caught up with O'Heir to get his reaction to his nomination and how he came to be in this position:

CultureMap: Obviously the show has been very popular since it opened. What did you all expect as far as Tony nominations?

Tim O'Heir: Well, I expected Neil to get nominated, because Neil is one of the most talented people out there. He's blowing minds every night. It's insane what he does on that stage; it's basically a one-woman show, and he's that woman.

It's a different thing. It's not really a Broadway show, so to speak, but it seems like people who are into Broadway are accepting it and having a great time. I had no expectations of being nominated for sound because it's so unconventional, but maybe that's why we got nominated.

CM: What were the challenges of adapting the sound of Hedwig from the movie to the stage?

TO: I had been working with Stephen Trask, the composer, since then on motion picture scores and various things. We were very much brothers; we were on the same wavelength on a lot of things. And when this was first brought up about eight years ago, he said, "You're involved. I need you."

I was lucky enough to hook up with some of the best people on Broadway. They understood what I was looking for, which was to bring a rock 'n' roll concept to Broadway. That's what Stephen's vision was when he wrote this, because it was performed in a club originally with a rock band.

We needed it so that when you walked in to see the show, Hedwig has her band there and she's taken over the theater for one night, and she's going to give you a rock concert. That's what we needed to do. I didn't want it to be crushing; I needed every lyric to be intelligible, but I also needed it to rock. That was kind of the challenge on Broadway, but it looks like we've succeeded.

CM: Now that you've had this great first experience, do you think that you'll do more theater work in the future?

TO: Throughout my career, my favorite music has been stuff that has a theatrical element to it. That's what I like about music: I like the show. Not necessarily a hundred dancers on stage, but I like people who are trying to get something across in a different way. It's something I would always try to do on a record, to give somebody a bigger picture, an emotional experience.

So I guess this is just a natural progression. I definitely would like to do more. It's a blast, and doing something like this you just work with incredibly talented people every day. Everybody on a show or on a film set gives 135 percent all the time, and it's exciting to work in an environment like that.