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Ricky talks Bruno Mars Super Bowl Halftime Show

Singer Bruno Mars speaks at the Super Bowl half time press conference in New YorkNY POST - When Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers take the field at MetLife Stadium on Sunday for the hotly anticipated Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show, organizers urge the crowd to stay in their seats and use their heads — literally.

“We are essentially creating the largest ever LED screen in the stadium,” said Ricky Kirshner, whose New York-based company Touchdown Entertainment tackles the halftime bonanza from staging, lighting, sound production and also televising.

“Everyone will get a wool hat with a built in LED screen in their warming package under their seat cushion. We’re asking for audience participation. People, please don’t leave your seat.”

The technologically advanced fashion will result in 800,000 pixels, turning the stadium into one of the biggest LED screens ever made.

“It will take up the entire stadium. It’s the first time we’ve done anything like this. If you were to look at the Grammys where there’s a backdrop, this extends that backdrop to the entire stadium,” said Kirshner, whose company has produced the last seven Super Bowl halftime spectaculars.

The concert’s logistics, which have been in gestation since September, have very little room for error.

From the time the Seahawks and Broncos hit the locker room, Kirshner’s crew has eight minutes to set up for an action-packed 12-minute musical extravaganza. After the last note is played, there’s seven minutes on the clock to dismantle the stage and get the field ready for the third quarter.

The concert — including performers, volunteers and crews — will require about 3,000 people to carry out.

With an open air stadium, Kirshner said there are many tweaks that need to be made as opposed to putting on a show of this proportion in a dome.

“There aren’t the rigging points. But on the positive side, we can produce a much more exciting pyrotechnic show,” he said, adding that every stadium has its challenges.

“No one builds a stadium for us to do a halftime show. It’s very annoying. It would be much easier if they would ask us what we need,” he joked.

Though the cold weather and storm potential has been a source of panic for the fans and a constant story line for the media, Kirshner isn’t logging into the Weather Channel every five minutes.

After all, his first was Super Bowl XLI in Miami, where Prince performed in the pouring rain.

“Everyone said, ‘It has never rained at a Super Bowl, don’t worry about it.’ And then of course it poured that day. I don’t believe in watching the forecast anymore. We do many outdoor events. It always seems that if you watch the weather report you will drive yourself crazy, so you just have to do your show and be prepared,” said Kirshner, who promised the same show rain or shine.

Along with the Meadowlands’ blistering cold and whipping winds, the show will also feature local talent.

Producers have enlisted some lucky New Jersey school marching bands from South Brunswick High School, Nutley, Bergenfield, Morris Knolls and Roxbury.

“They won’t be used as traditional marching bands,” Kirshner said. “They are part of the light show. Our team that works with marching bands works with the Olympics and they’re used to recruiting those kids. It’s a whole operation just dealing with 500 marching bands kids. You have to feed them, bus them, move them, get them into rehearsals.”

Kirshner, who was raised in New Jersey and lives in Manhattan, said it’s great to be on his home turf, but he concedes there’s not much time for fun and games, regardless of the location.

“I think we’re so focused on what we do. It’s not glamorous,” Kirshner said. “We never get out to the parties, so it’s not like we experience the Super Bowl feeling all week.”

Beyond the bones of the show, Kirshner, who spent last week in Los Angeles rehearsing, is mostly mum, dropping one hint. “It’s probably more rock music than we’ve had in the past.”

Entertainment Weekly: Best of 2013

EW  The musical number is a tried-and-true awards show opener. But last June, it got taken to new heights when viewers were treated to one of the most elaborate, thrilling, and catchy performances of all when Neil Patrick Harris hosted the Tony Awards for the fourth time.

The “Bigger” number celebrated the best of Broadway and had audiences both at home and in the theater on their feet by the end of the seven-and-a-half-minute performance. (Just check out Debra Messing’s reaction shot to sum up most people’s feelings about the song). With all the songs, magic tricks and cameos the song would have been impressive regardless, but the fact that the number went live after only getting to run it fully through a few times makes it worthy of a standing ovation.

“That’s what makes the Tonys so invigorating,” Harris tells EW. “With almost no rehearsal you’re counting on people to execute well. But these are people who execute well every single night. So they’re used to that kind of pressure and they thrive on it.”

In separate conversations, Harris, as well as Tonys telecast executive producer Ricky Kirshner and Tonys telecast director/executive producer Glenn Weiss, walked EW through what happens when you sketch out a number via Facetime, put each part together separately, and only get a few precious moments to run it all together before curtain.

As told by: Neil Patrick Harris, Ricky Kirshner, and Glenn Weiss

RICKY KIRSHNER: It’s about [November] that people ask us what the opening number will be, and we think we have an idea about what the big shows will be, and then the shows come out and we realize we have no idea what the nominated shows will be. But I think we started planning that number in February or March.

NEIL PATRICK HARRIS: I knew we were going to Radio City from the Beacon [Theater] after having been there for two years. I was in my car driving, and I remember thinking, “Well, if it’s moving to Radio City, there’s your opening number.” You can embrace the largeness of it all. So I was driving and thought, “Why not do an Irish quick ditty, [sings] ‘It’s bigger, it’s bigger, This show is so much bigger!’”And then I do a lot of quick verbal acrobatics to instill faith that I know what I’m doing, because I can rattle off a prompter pretty fast. And then go back to the chorus: “It’s bigger! It’s bigger!” So that was sort of the impetus of it.

GLENN WEISS: Look, when you’re putting together a number for the Tonys, it can be host driven or it can not be host driven. When you have a guy like Neil, it’s great because he comes in with all this talent and ability and a magic act, and all that stuff, so he’s quite an asset. And you want to use that asset as much as you can. That said, we put together this team of people. Neil was shooting a movie in New Mexico for a lot of this time, so we were doing a lot of Facetime and all that stuff. As a group there was writer Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tom Kitt who did the music and Rob Ashford who was putting together the choreography of all the Broadway stuff. There really was a terrific team collaboration going on with terrific back and forth.

Read the entire interview here.

RKP and the Most Memorable Music Moments on TV in 2013


The Super Bowl Halftime Show has become synonymous for being extravagant, an event that arguably rivals the Super Bowl itself. Beyoncé’s appearance at this year’s show may have been the best yet, as her 14-minute performance delivered in every way possible. From “Crazy in Love” to “Halo,” she performed a medley of records from her catalog with style and grace, rarely missing a note while hitting every dance move onstage. Beyoncé even brought out former Destiny’s Child members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams to join her in performing “Bootylicious,” “Independent Women Part 1” and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” Add in grandiose fireworks as well as an elaborate stage and lighting setup, and Beyoncé’s performance was an incredible moment that millions of Americans will remember years from now. Click here to watch Beyoncé perform for the Super Bowl Halftime Show.


Ever since a teenage Neil Patrick Harris impressed viewers as the star of Doogie Howser, M.D. in the late 1980s, it was clear that he was born to entertain, whether that be on the big screen, small screen or on a stage. For his fourth time in five years hosting the Tony Awards, Harris surely outdid himself this year with his opening number. The seven-minute performance highlighted his multitalented background as he sang, danced, played guitar and performed an illusion that caught audience members by surprise. Dare we say it: This was a Tony Award-winning performance from the 40-year-old actor. Click here to watch Neil Patrick Harris perform at the Tony Awards.

Continue to the entire list of most memorable televised music moments here.

66th Annual Tony Awards wins 4 Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Special Class Program


Executive Producer Ricky Kirshner with his EMMY Award and host Neil Patrick Harris

LA TIMES This year’s Tony Awards show was one of the top winners at Sunday’s 65th Annual Creative Arts Emmys. The 66th annual Tony telecast — which tied with “Boardwalk Empire” for the second-largest number of Emmys won, with four apiece — took home honors for Outstanding Special Class Program.

The 2013 Tony Awards: Greatest Opening Number Ever


NPR Unless you’ve seen every awards show since the dawn of time (which would make you The Unluckiest Person In The World), you can’t really answer the question of whether last night’s opener of the Tony Awards, hosted for the fourth time by Neil Patrick Harris, was the best opening ever.

But if you’re talking about awards shows in recent memory, the answer is that not only was it the best opener, but it utterly embarrassed just about everything except maybe Jimmy Fallon’s “Born To Run” at the 2010 Emmys. It’s funny, energetic, committed, and ultimately deeply and touchingly warm-hearted.

The next time you’re tempted to give an Oscar host a pass on the basis that it’s an impossible, can’t-win job, and that the lazy, easy, corny, toothless humor that passes for patter is a fundamental of the awards format, and that the jokes can’t be better and the numbers can’t be better and the hosting can’t be better and the crowd can’t get excited, keep in mind that that’s exactly what people who want to keep making lazy awards shows want you to think.

Sure, theater people have an advantage with musical numbers, but if you run the Oscars and can’t figure out how to do for and with love of film what the Tonys are doing for and with love of theater, you are terrible at your job and should hand it off to someone else. This wasn’t even the only great number — there was also a funny, biting bit from Andrew Rannells, Megan Hilty, and Laura Benanti, all theater people whose TV shows (The New Normal, Smash, and Go On) were recently canceled.

As for the awards themselves, they proved very big for the play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, by Christopher Durang, as well as the offbeat revival of Pippin and the new musical Kinkyboots, which brought a first-ever Tony to its composer — Cyndi Lauper. Pam McKinnon and Diane Paulus were the rare pair of women to take directing honors in the same year for play and musical (for Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? and Pippin respectively), and great speeches came from winners including Billy Porter for Kinkyboots, Cicely Tyson for The Trip To Bountiful, and Andrea Martin for Pippin.

Step it up, everybody else. The theater kids are making you look terrible.


LA TIMES In live theater, a performer has to know how to make an entrance, and television critics reviewing Sunday’s CBS telecast of the Tony Awards from Radio City Music Hall in New York City applauded its host, Neil Patrick Harris, for making a memorable one.

The number began more or less where last year’s Tonys had left off, with “Once,” the unpretentious, decidedly non-glitzy 2012 winner for best new musical. Harris appeared as a novice folk-pop guitar strummer in a “Once”-like Irish pub. But within moments he was declaring, “It’s bigger … tonight it’s bigger!” and he was off to the races, joined by a thespian multitude from an assortment of Broadway shows.

As Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times put it, the “opening number had him leaping acrobatically through a hoop, avoiding an effort by Mike Tyson [who made his first theatrical bow this year with a one-man autobiographical show] to chomp his ear and pulling a vanishing act that was as impressive on television as it must have been in the theater. (He disappeared from a box onstage, only to reappear moments later at the back of the hall).”

“As often happens,” Genzlinger continued, “the subsequent show rose to those heights only a few times. One of them came just minutes after Mr. Harris left the stage and the cast of “Matilda the Musical” took it over. If that show’s number didn’t produce an instant spike in ticket sales, there’s no hope for the theater.”

Los Angeles Times critic Robert Lloyd was similarly knocked out by the “invaluable, unshakable Harris…. Harris was never too long out of view, and when he was around, he was put to good use,” with partners who included Sandy, the cute dog from the musical “Annie,” with whom Harris exchanged repeated kisses on the lips before quipping, “You do know I’m in a relationship, right?”

The host wound up working overtime — his last joke was that the Tonys would have to skip the planned finale because the telecast was running late. Instead, Harris started rapping, and was soon joined by past multi-Tony winner Audra McDonald in a duet that reworked Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” to include rhyming shout-outs to many of the night’s major winners.

In Genzlinger’s view, “it wasn’t as funny as last year’s” finale, and he wished that the acceptance speeches had been curtailed to keep the evening more brisk. When victors grasp their coveted medallions, he wrote, “what they actually have in their hands is the power to kill the momentum of the broadcast.”

Lloyd, to the contrary, was touched by Cicely Tyson, who went overtime while thanking Broadway for welcoming her back after a 30-year absence, and by acceptance speeches in which “Kinky Boots” star Billy Porter and composer Cindy Lauper recalled how Broadway musicals reached them when they were very young, via a Tony telecast (Porter) or, for Lauper, her mother’s collection of cast albums.

Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press noted two other memorable moments: Lauper singing her 1980s pop hit “True Colors” while an “in memoriam” sequence of photographs of theater eminences who’d died since last year’s Tonys was displayed behind her. and a satirical number in which Harris, who shot to stardom via television, teamed with a less fortunate trio of theater folk whose TV shows had bombed. He got to gloat a bit, while Andrew Rannells, Laura Benanti and Megan Hilty sang laments.

Hilty’s show, “Smash,” took its final bow a few weeks ago on NBC after two years of dismal ratings. The final hour was the show’s own fictional Tony Awards — making 2013 the year in which truly committed theater buffs could watch two Tony Awards on two networks.

The Democratic National Convention

Live Design – The Democratic National Convention, at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, NC, took place from September 4–6 hosting their candidate, President Barack Obama. After their well-received 2008 convention the Democrat’s again tapped Executive Producer Ricky Kirshner of RK Productions. “I think from a producing point of view it always starts with the design,” explains Kirshner. “At the end of the day, most people are watching to see the speeches and they care about the content of those speeches. We’re there to support that and present it in an engaging manner. We tried to keep it just that simple.”

In a departure from convention designs of the past, Production Designer Bruce Rodgers of Tribe, Inc. and the production team chose to put the podium stage in the end goal area of the arena rather than the traditional the centerline location. “The Charlotte arena architecturally really worked for the end stage arrangement,” says Rodgers. “It just looked right and felt better. It got the delegates a lot closer so there was a great energy in the space.”

Of his design approach Rodgers says, “I wanted to keep it stylish and modern; something beautiful but simple. I decided go with form following function. I knew functionally it was important to have a wide shot that look great and was impactful. We needed a beautiful tight close-up shot; the classic head to toe shot with the President standing behind the lectern; and I wanted a strong reverse shot. I placed the lectern very far downstage, which gave great reverse angles from the cameras on top of the backing wall. That angle was a chance to see the speakers in a way that felt really honest. You saw their view out over the delegates; you connected with them; it was more personal.”

Rodgers ‘simple’ set was actually technically quite complex as he designed the set to have a curving vertical feel. “I wanted the stage to be open but also have a strength and a hopefulness which I feel the height gave it,” he describes. “I felt a cylindrical shape would be powerful but knew we couldn’t do all curved LED screens, so the header walls at the top of the set and the main backing wall at the bottom were curved creating the illusion that the whole set was curved, even though the center I-Mag screen and the two tall side verticals were flat screens. Also the main stage walls were convex but the horizon walls that reach 80′ in either direction from the stage were concave so you had these opposing curvatures. It looked very dynamic both on camera and in the arena from varying angles because of the play of depth it created.”

The set walls were 90% video screens with a mix of resolutions. The 12’Hx42’W backing wall behind the lectern used Barco NX4 4mm LED tiles. The hero wall I-Mag screen and the two side I-Mag screens were VER BR7 7mm LED tiles; while WinVision 9.375mm LED product was used for the vertical sides, the SR & SL walls, and the long horizon walls. “Part of the curving illusion is created due to all these resolution changes,” notes Rodgers. “Your eye focuses the most on the super hi res and falls off to the lower res tiles.” PRG built the entire set and the custom frames, including the constant curving backing wall frame that required the LED tiles to be deconstructed to be mounted. VER provided the LED and video packages. The video playback control, featuring Green Hippo Hippotizers, came from Mobius Productions. Kish Rigging handled the entire rigging package.

Lighting Designers Bob Dickinson and Bob Barnhart of Full Flood, Inc. spent a lot of time working with the video team on balancing the lighting and the video. “Today’s screens have a capability that far surpasses the needs of an event like this,” comments Dickinson. “Once we get the screens level set we balanced out the rest of the show. In terms of light levels we want to deliver between 60-70fc on the delegate floor as well as on the speaker. Depending what is happening in the arena at a given moment we will manipulate that. It really is done in a very live manner, I sit with Ricky Kirshner and with Glenn Weiss, the Director and based on what they want done we are able to be very reactive to it.”

The TWC Arena, being a modern structure, was built to maximize sitelines at the shortest distance to the arena floor. This creates the lighting challenge of having to deal with very steep mounting positions. “We want to light the floor 360 degrees so that the delegates are well lit and the press can photograph people anywhere on the arena floor,” says Dickinson. “The problem is that you can’t light people from a 60 angle overhead so we have to choose our truss positions carefully and still be mindful of the sightline from every seat. We light the delegates from four directions allowing pretty much bulletproof coverage.”

For keylighting Dickinson uses followspots. “They are our primary tool for keying,” he says. “They are so important that we have backup keys that we use in the case of a failure of a followspot and we use redundant power sources. A followspot is essentially the only tool that can make that throw and can contain—very, very tightly—the spill of the light the way I want.” Of the overall design itself Dickinson says, “If people were looking at the lighting something was wrong. There was some lighting for music guests but nothing to big. It was a very straightforward design.”

Kirshner was very proud of the whole team, commenting, “This starts with a small group of us designing it but none of it could happen without hundreds of people—stagehands, technicians, vendors—they were integral to the success. Everyone deserve a lot of credit; they all worked really, really hard to make it happen.”

Meet inaugural-party guru: Big productions are in New Yorker’s blood

ny-daily-imageNew York Daily News – Ricky Kirshner, the Manhattanite in charge of producing much of Barack Obama’s three-day inaugural shindig, had a burning question for the soon-to-be First Couple on Wednesday.
When they hit the dance floor Tuesday night at the televised Neighborhood Ball (one of 10 the Obamas will be attending), what song do they want playing?
“Are you waltzing? Are you slow-dancing? Do you guys have a special dance that you do?” Kirshner, 48, wondered aloud of the fist-bumping duo.
Welcome to Kirshner’s world, where even the most minute detail of Obama’s historic inaugural is a question to be pondered and resolved. But rest assured – Kirshner will get his answers.
Producing live, big-time events is what Kirshner does best, with a résumé that includes several Super Bowl halftime shows, Tony Awards and the past five Democratic conventions.
That Kirshner has been tapped to make Obama’s inaugural as smooth as the man himself only underscores what should be obvious: Although the inaugural is in Washington, it takes a New Yorker to pull together what is really a three-day public party.
A Yankees fan to the core who grew up in New Jersey but hasn’t left New York since his first job as a gofer for ABC, Kirshner admitted Wednesday to a certain amount of stress, but no nightmares.
“I’ve had no nightmares because I haven’t slept in a month,” he told the Daily News. “Seriously, I actually wrote a memo to my staff about the 100 things I was thinking about while not sleeping.”
Kirshner, with directing partner Glenn Weiss, is responsible for the “Kids’ Inaugural,” a live concert airing on Disney Channel Monday at 8 p.m. that will feature such ‘tween sensations as the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus.
After that, he’ll turn his attention to the first-ever “Neighborhood Ball,” a postinaugural bash Tuesday intended to include capital residents in the festivities.
Top-shelf performers headlining that gig, to be aired live by ABC at 8 p.m., include Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Faith Hill, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder.
“The good news is that getting talent wasn’t the hard part,” Kirshner said.
In fact, getting the best performance out of big-time acts runs in Kirshner’s blood – his dad is Don Kirshner, the legendary rock producer and promoter.
But for all the flash of the inauguration, the younger Kirshner says he’ll measure his success not by how much notice he gets, but by how little.
“I always like to say that if you see me on TV,” Kirshner said, “there is something seriously wrong.”

All the theatrics, and a ‘killer speech,’ too

Las Vegas Sun - It was a dramatic story with compelling characters who read great dialogue and snapped out their lines on gorgeous sets.

That’s Robert Thompson, a Syracuse University scholar of the history of television, describing last week’s Democratic National Convention.

And Thompson isn’t joking. In the modern era, political conventions must be judged on whether they make for good television, and by most accounts, the Democrats set a new standard last week, using imagery, music and words to great effect.

“Any old vaudevillian would applaud the production,” Thompson said.

First, the scripted story line: The Democrats’ long campaign, as well as the inscrutable personalities of Bill and Hillary Clinton, created dramatic tension, as the pundits wondered whether they would give full-throated endorsements to Sen. Barack Obama….

Read more…

Producer ready for Denver’s Super Bowl of politics

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Producer Ricky Kirshner knows how to put on a big show. After handling the Super Bowl, a NATO summit and four national political conventions, he was ready for the Democratic gathering in Denver.
Then he learned that the convention starting Monday would move from the 20,000-seat Pepsi Center to 76,000-seat Invesco Field for Barack Obama’s acceptance speech on the final night, Thursday.
Kirshner’s reaction?
“After taking oxygen for about an hour …” he said, letting the punch line hang in the air before continuing. “I said to my partner, one thing we’re lucky about is that we’ve done so many stadium shows.”
This time around, it’s both timing and size that count.
There’s the issue of shifting the convention from one venue to another in one evening, and having to work around football games scheduled at Invesco within a couple days of the convention’s opening and closing.
The plan was to bring equipment into the stadium this weekend and then “caravan over” from the Pepsi Center after events wrap there Wednesday night, Kirshner said. “We’ll rehearse a little and then show up Thursday and hope to do it.”
Afterward, he has 48 hours to clear out for next Sunday’s game between the University of Colorado and Colorado State.
Kirshner considers it worth the stress.
“I have my team with me, I know what we’re getting into. It’s not easy, but at the end of the day it’s going to be one of the most historic things ever, and how can you not want to be a part of it?” Kirshner said Friday from Denver.
The event at the Pepsi Center isn’t small scale, by any measure.
About 400 people, including stagehands and technical crews, are at work as RK Productions oversees the design, installation and operation of set, light and audio systems. The company also is responsible for entertainment; even signs and banners are part of Kirshner’s portfolio.
But it’s the video displays that tend to make the biggest splash.
“Every time you do one of these, you try to do something technologically advanced that people haven’t seen before,” Kirshner said.
That was a wall of 56 video cubes at the 1992 Democratic convention. This time around, Kirshner said, the set offers some 8,000 square feet of video panels with the flexibility to provide a changing background for each speaker.
At heart, a political convention is “a big corporate meeting,” he said, which his company also routinely produces.
And no matter how dramatic the gathering or Obama’s stadium speech turns out to be from a political standpoint, as a production it won’t have the punch of, say, a Beijing Olympics ceremony.
“Their budget was a lot more than ours and they had a lot more free labor,” Kirshner said.