From "theatrical tricks" to rumored guests (Beyoncé! Bruno!), insiders tease all the details about the most watched televised spectacle in America.
Coldplay are set to headline the 2016 Super Bowl halftime show—one of the biggest TV events of the year—in Santa Clara, Calif., on Feb. 7, and as the 2,500-person team behind the production prepares the set, costumes, design, and lighting, there’s one concept that director Hamish Hamilton keeps coming back to. “I think the buzzword will be involvement,” says Hamilton, who also helmed halftime shows for Katy Perry, Beyoncé, Madonna, and the Who. “They are a band that’s big on inclusion.” Supervising producer Rob Paine agrees: “All 70,000 people who will be there will hopefully be participating in the show.”
Details about the show’s execution—and rumored guests like Beyoncé (a guest singer on Coldplay’s new album A Head Full of Dreams) and Bruno Mars—are top secret. (Reps declined comment about either star’s involvement.) But Hamilton promises Coldplay will celebrate the event’s 50th anniversary in a big way. “The legacy of 50 Super Bowl halftimes will certainly be featured,” he says. “It may not be a literal thing, but you’re definitely going to get the sense of 50. [And] there are always guests. I don’t see why this show would be different.”
What is different: The halftime show will be broadcast in daylight hours, which presents lighting challenges. “Under the cover of darkness, you can use all kinds of theatrical tricks with the lighting—video and lasers,” Paine says. “In daylight, you have to figure out how to hide things.” Lighting director Bob Barnhart says he’s designed five completely different scenarios for the show, and will employ one based on the day’s weather. “Lighting doesn’t have a huge amount of artistic contribution this year.”
Coldplay begin rehearsals in earnest on Feb. 3, with only three days allotted for refining the production on the field, according to Paine. Needless to say, the pressure is on. As an industry source notes: “Doing the Super Bowl halftime show is one of the most intense and stressful performances an artist will ever do. The whole world is watching.”