BWW Exclusive Interview: Tony Winning Set Designer Derek McLane Talks OSCARS, NBC's Sound of Music & 'BEAUTIFUL'

Tony Award-winning set designer Derek McLane has been chosen once again to design the sets for the 2014 Oscars, airing live this Sunday, March 2nd on ABC. Over the past year, the award-winner designed the sets for Broadway's Beautiful: The Carole King Musical as well as NBC's innovative live broadcast of The Sound of Music.

Today, McLane spoke exclusively with BWW from Los Angeles where he is finalizing details for Sunday night's highly-anticipated telecast!

Last year's Oscars were such a huge success, does that put Extra pressure on you as you return for Year 2?

Absolutely! A lot of pressure, because people are saying, 'You know you have to outdo yourself this year.' The truth is, I think I would be feeling a lot of pressure no matter what because it's such a widely viewed show and it's a giant arena and I know there are a lot of expectations for the show so yes, absolutely, I feel a lot of pressure. But I enjoy that. I can honestly say that that is part of the thrill of doing something like this.

I know that you are limited to what you can reveal about this year's sets, but since it has been announced that the show is going to pay tribute to the 75th Anniversary of The Wizard of Oz as well as heroes of film, I was wondering if those themes will be incorporated into your designs?

Not in any kind of literal way. The design is certainly inspired by some of those things but I don't expect that audiences will necessarily see the link between that, it will be much more abstract than that.

One of the highlights of the night will surely be Idina Menzel's performance of 'Let It Go' from Disney's Frozen. Without revealing details, was designing the set for that number an exciting challenge for you?

Well it was and I'm really excited for everyone to see it. That's definitely one of the special moments of the show and for me as a designer.

Going back to last year's Oscars, I heard that Barbra Streisand was quite pleased with the set you designed for her tribute performance of 'The Way We Were.'

Yes, she was very, very enthusiastic about the set after she saw it and I heard that from a number of people, including some of her friends who were also around for the show. And for a short time, she was interested in taking the set on tour with her to Europe. At the end of the day, it didn't work out because the set was not made to be tourable, but for me, that was obviously an enormous thrill and I got to chat with her briefly about it at the Governor's Ball. I was really honored and flattered that she was so appreciative. I had never met her before and have always been such a fan, she's such an icon, so that was truly thrilling.

You've had a very busy year since I spoke with you last February. One of your projects was designing the sets for NBC's live broadcast of The Sound of Music. What was it like to watch the show live? Were you just a bundle of nerves that something would go wrong, or were you able to relax and enjoy it?

It was interesting because I watched it from the control truck, rather than being out on the studio floor. And there was really nothing I could do at that point. Being in the control truck you could at least speak loudly if you wanted, you could speak to the other people in the truck because we weren't going to disturb anyone, we were physically isolated. And I would say there was great nervousness for the first and second scenes and of course we were all apprehensive about how the thing would be perceived artistically, whether people would enjoy it or not.

But once we got to the first commercial there were some applause and high-fiving in the control truck and everyone was like, 'Okay, these guys are pros, they did it, they did it like they did in rehearsals', and we suddenly felt like whatever possible disasters might occur during this experiment, and it was an experiment at that point, nobody had done a live studio version of a musical in something like fifty years, so there were a lot of unknowns for everybody, once we got to that first commercial, I think everybody just breathed a sigh of relief. When we got to the second commercial and things were still going well, we were finally able to just sit and watch it, and that's just what we did.



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