Rocky the Musical: The set packs a punch
Come Sunday, I know who I’m rooting for to win a Tony award — Chris Barreca, who is nominated for best scenic design for his work on Rocky, the musical.
Based on Sylvester Stallone’s seminal film about the lowly South Philly boxer who gets a shot at the big time, the Rocky set designed by Chris Barreca is a knockout. Among it’s wow factors are a boxing ring which thrusts into the audience and turns 180° and a staircase modeled after the famous one displayed in the film.
I spoke with Mr. Barreca the other day for a story for my newspaper (turns out he’s a former local boy who now teaches at the California Institute of Arts), and learned that while most Broadway shows sport maybe two or three axes of automation (moving parts) his high tech set has 85.
He said his main emphasis with the set was to keep things moving, to show how Rocky is forever traveling through the city. “The core of the design is that everything that is normally fixed — structures and walls, all move,” he said.
Mr. Barreca’s hard work has paid off, fans are awed by the Rocky set, and critics too.
Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter called the set, “game changing staging, the thing that makes it a landmark achievement, of sorts, and a must-see show for sure.”
Victor Fiorillo of Philadelphia Magazine called it, “nothing short of extraordinary, a bewildering amount of moving pieces and stunning stagecraft.”
While Mr. Barreca said he looks forward to attending the Tonys, he doesn’t do set design work for awards, and feels no sense of rivalry with the other nominees. “I’m very friendly with other designers in this profession, and very supportive of their work. Being part of an artistic community and working together sustains you. The only person I am competitive with is myself,” he said.
Mr. Barreca has already won a Drama Desk award and an Outer Critics Circle award for Rocky. So, I wouldn’t bet against him to snag a Tony too.