When it comes to producing live television you only have “one chance to get it right,” so “Jesus Christ Superstar” production designer Jason Ardizzone West was “praying in the back corner” that everything would go smoothly when the show was performed and televised on NBC this past Easter Sunday, April 1. “But as far as I’m concerned everything came out really well, and I’m very happy about it.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Ardizzone West above.
It was a “surprise” that he got the job in the first place. He was recommended for it by production designer Es Devlin, whom he’s worked with on projects including Beyonce‘s “Formation” tour and “American Psycho” on Broadway. Ardizzone West had an “interesting combination of design history” that suited him well to this live theatrical production: he previously worked as an architect and is experienced in musical theater as well as in concert design. Those credits would certainly prepare you well for a live TV rock concert musical like “Superstar.”
The Marcy Avenue Armory in Brooklyn, New York, where the show was staged is bigger than the musical theater venues he’s designed for, but “the scale and texture of it felt very rock and roll,” so it felt “familiar” to him given his experience with concert venues. “I didn’t think of it as a musical theater event as much as a sort of installation rock concert,” he explains. “It was a unique genre in that way.”
The set itself brought together elements of antiquity and modernity, combining “broken ancient frescoes” with “scaffolding reminiscent of an archaeological dig.” Then there was the wall that opens into the shape of a cross for the show’s climax. It gives “Superstar” its bold dramatic crescendo, but it was “fairly straightforward in terms of the idea.” Executing it was more complicated given all the different moving parts, but “what ultimately made it successful was that it was this combination of pretty much all of the departments working together in a synchronized way … That energy is captured in the broadcast and is very palpable.”
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