Broadway's largest set desgin

finebydesign
Broadway Legend
joined:7/17/07
Broadway's largest set desgin
Posted: 11/14/12 at 11:18am

Most of the Disney shows have/had massive sets. Even the rigging for Tarzan was insane. Both Lion King and Tarzan had inflatable pieces because there was not enough space.

Legally Blonde didn't seem that huge to me, it seemed like mostly flats from the flies.

I've never seen Sunset but I've heard that was pretty incredible. The recent Into the Woods (though not on Broadway) had a massive set. And you can just forget about opera, those things are huge. I remember Taymor's Grendel opera being MASSIVE. George Typsin (Spiderman, Little Mermaid)designed that monster.


There are some renderings of the Elaborate Lives version of Aid here

Updated On: 11/14/12 at 11:18 AM
Someone in a Tree2
Broadway Star
joined:10/9/12
Broadway's largest set desgin
Posted: 11/14/12 at 04:15pm
The original "My Fair Lady" would never be considered a giant set by today's standards, even though it dazzled folks at the Marc Hellinger with its double turntables back in '56. But that proscenium, along with most of the other shows mentioned above, are all in the standard range of 36' to 40' wide. Even the residents of the New Amsterdam ("Lion King" and "Mary Poppins"), the Ford/ Foxwoods ("Ragtime"), and the Palace ("Aida") don't exceed Broadway norms.

But "Spider-Man" is a special case-- George Tsypin burst the boundaries of the Foxwoods proscenium, both side to side and top to bottom to create what could well be the biggest Broadway set of all time. His design is not only on a giant scale, but constantly full of heavily mechanized set changes too-- big in all senses. He has competition though, from Eugene Lee and especially from John Napier.

John Napier filled the Minskoff with many tons of scenery for "Sunset Boulevard", but weightiest doesn't equal biggest-- his sets were all still contained within the proscenium arch. He went wider still at the Winter Garden for "Cats" with a set that wrapped around the full audience and back, but the Cats design depended more on light bulbs, blowup graphics and atmosphere than on scenery per se. I wouldn't count it as the biggest on Broadway.

Usually the biggest theater = the biggest set. Hence the Gershwin (which started out as the Uris) could probably claim pride of place on Broadway for any show that played there whose set spanned the full room. We're talking the original "Sweeney Todd" and "Wicked", both designed by Eugene Lee and both of which spread out into the house from wall to wall. But John Napier's "Starlight Express at the same theater (which I was one of an army of draftsman on) surpassed those 2 shows by building even more elaborate multilevel set units house right and left, along with elaborate looping ramps out into the orchestra. I'd give it the win. For now.

Updated On: 11/14/12 at 04:15 PM
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
Broadway's largest set desgin
Posted: 11/14/12 at 04:24pm
Maybe you would know--I've wondered what's happened to John Napier? I'm sure he still makes big profits from tours, etc, but is he retired or something? For a while he was the go-to guy (with good reason) for those big, mainly UK based musicals, but I can't even remember the last major show he did.
Someone in a Tree2
Broadway Star
joined:10/9/12
Broadway's largest set desgin
Posted: 11/14/12 at 05:14pm
Great question, Eric. I only worked with John Napier on 2 shows back in the late 80's early 90's-- endless months drafting on 2 different stateside designs for STARLIGHT EXPRESS, and illustrating the original designs for SIEGFRIED & ROY AT THE MIRAGE. I checked an internet website of UK theater-- looks like John is still designing the odd opera or show at the Royal Court. Turns out there was a Trevor Nunn-directed GONE WITH THE WIND back in '08 that John designed which toured the provinces.

Frankly I thought John was one of the true geniuses of musical theater design despite having only rudimentary sketching abilities (everything was discovered in the model-making process, in which John was incredibly hands-on). He could be very hot-or-cold when it came to personal interactions (he pissed a LOT of people off at the '87 Tony's for grudgingly accepting the Costume Design award for Starlight but being apoplectic for it not getting a set nomination as well). But he had a true artist's imagination and could create that visual sense of wonder and alchemy with the poorest materials--broken chairs and strings of lights -- as well as the luxuries that a SUNSET BOULEVARD could afford.

I'd love to see what else his imagination could offer us.
westcoast_wannabe
Leading Actor
joined:9/10/07
Broadway's largest set desgin
Posted: 11/14/12 at 06:26pm
"But he had a true artist's imagination and could create that visual sense of wonder and alchemy with the poorest materials--broken chairs and strings of lights -- as well as the luxuries that a SUNSET BOULEVARD could afford."

That sentence makes me want to see what he could design for Follies.
Someone in a Tree2
Broadway Star
joined:10/9/12
Broadway's largest set desgin
Posted: 11/15/12 at 03:05pm
I absolutely agree-- a Napier-designed FOLLIES could have been the best of all possible worlds as long as he had a producer with the money to carry out his grandest schemes. I'm picturing an amalgam of his NICHOLAS NICKLEBY pileup of walkways, ropes and trunks combined with some remnants of his SUNSET BOULEVARD architectural treasures. The last FOLLIES revival was clearly designed on the page 2-dimensionally-- what glory we might have seen had John gone at it with a collaged design through his gorgeous model making process.
Phantom of London
Broadway Legend
joined:3/26/08
Broadway's largest set desgin
Posted: 11/17/12 at 11:52am
I waited for this thread to run its course, as my contender doesn't qualify for this thread, the show hasn't played Broadway (yet), it isn't that large and probably didn't cost a lot of money to conceive and build, nothing truly makes you say wow, when the show is in progress about what the set actually does, so perhaps my answer isn't a contender for this thread after all. Except the set is purely ingenious as a set in its solid entirety form, the set was designed by Rob Howell and will start previewing on the 04th March 2013 at the Shubert Theater, of course my answer is Matilda, if you will, which has just completed its 1st year in London, West End, I have resisted in posting a photo, so not to spoil the set for people who haven't seen it, but posted a link if people want to view it.


Matilda Set
2014 Theatre: Billy Elliot***** Meet Me In St Louis*** American Psycho**** Tell Me On A Sunday**** Jeeves and Wooster: Perfect Nonsense* Stephen Ward**** Charlie and the Chocolate factory*** Dirty Dancing** Stephen Sondheim's Puttin It Together*** Candide*** The Lion King***** The Book of Mormon****** Les Miserable***** Stephen Ward**** The Weir**** Fortune's Fool*** Spamalot*** Superior Doughnuts**** Seven Brides For Seven Brothers**** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) Finans Rainbow**** The Commitments** Boeing Boeing*** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) The A-Z of Mrs P** Billy Elliot***** Wicked** Good People***** Urinetown***** Spamalot*** The Full Monty**** Other Desert Cities*** Ghosts*** Dirty Rotten Scoundrels***** It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman*** Stephen Ward**** King Lear**** A Taste Of Honey** Blithe Spirit**** From Here To Eternity**** Spamalot*** Fiddler On The Roof** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) Relative Values**** Fatal Attraction*** Matilda***** 39 Steps**** Another Country** Handbagged** Two Into One*** The Beautiful Game***** Let The Right One In**** Once**** Privacy***** Home** Best of Friends** Avenue Q*** Good People***** Betty Blue Eyes*** (Tour: Salisbury Playhouse) I Can't Sing* A View From The Bridge***** Water Babies **** (Tour: Leicester Curve) Miss Saigon***** In The Heights*** The Testament of Mary*** This May Hurt A Bit*** The Last 5 Years* (Greenwich Theatre) All My Sons*** Happy Days** Dirty Rotten Scoundrels**** Bakersfield Mist**** Ushers** The Pajama Game*** Evita*** (Tour: Orchard Theatre, Dartford)Fings Ain't What They Used To Be**** Billy Elliot***** Titus Andronicus**** 1984*** Clarence Darrow**** Miss Saigon***** A Small Family Business*** Things We Do For Love**** Hobson's Choice*** Rock of Ages*** (Tour: Churchill Theatre, Bromley) Zanna, Don't!*** The Silver Tassie** Bring Up The Bodies** Forbidden Broadway**** Carousel**** Hotel*** The Crucible**** Annie Get Your Gun*** (Churchill Theatre, Bromley) Medea*** The Importance of Being Earnest*** The Pajama Game*** Skylight**** Pacific Overtures** The Invincibles*** Julius Ceasar*** Porgy and Bess**** Dessa Rose** Great Britain**** One Man, Two Guvnors**** (Tour: Orchard Theatre, Dartford) Dogfight** My Night With Reg*** Book of Mormon***** Richard III**** See Rock City** Guys and Dolls*** Wicked* Charlie and the Chocolate Factory*** The Apple Tree*** The Jersey Boys*** Miss Saigon***** Matilda***** A Streetcar Named Desire**** The Dreamling** The Play That Went Wrong*** The Phantom of the Opera**** Fully Committed*** Bedroom Farce**** (Salisbury) Sweeney Todd**** King Charles III***
ruthiefan_felix
Broadway Legend
joined:10/6/03
Broadway's largest set desgin
Posted: 11/17/12 at 01:30pm
One of the biggest sets I've seen is definitely Lord of the Rings in the West End! Spiderman was pretty huge!
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TBFL
Featured Actor
joined:2/1/11
Broadway's largest set desgin
Posted: 11/17/12 at 04:20pm
Shogun on broadway was also pretty impressive!! I dont remember that much ab out it, but it was impressive. The Starlight set is still one of my all time favourites.

In terms of the West End, Time and Metropolis were probably the biggest. I doubt we will ever see sets like them again
devonian.t
Broadway Legend
joined:7/26/04
Broadway's largest set desgin
Posted: 11/17/12 at 05:43pm
Lord of the Rings was bigger than Time and Metropolis, though the latter ran it close.

Matilda is the victim of its origins on a thrust stage- all the main scenic elements are way upstage. Miss Honey's house is nothing.

Those Aida designs are gorgeous.

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