2014 Tony-nominated designer Christopher Barreca joins the Rocky collaboration panel at the Broadway Lighting Master Classes.

Scenic designer Christopher Barreca believes in being deeply embedded in a project from its earliest stages, which was the case for Rocky. He began the design process for this Tony-nominated musical (Barreca was nominated along with lighting designer Christopher Akerlind) long before its premiere In Hamburg, Germany, when two workshops took place and the scenic concepts were born. “We held a boxing workshop and a staged reading,” recalls Barreca.”

The idea for the gantry that moves the boxing ring in Rocky came to Barreca in Hamburg as he watched all the large cranes in that bustling, industrial port city. Baden Engineering built the gantry in Germany while Global Scenic Services built the one for Broadway.

Barreca built a ¼" model but also used extensive pre-viz in After Effects, calling upon the talents of animation students at CalArts, where he is on the faculty. Via a 3D model, the creative team could watch the show from any angle, lay in the sound, and add video onto the set. “You can see all the moving parts in the proper perspective in the pre-viz,” notes Barreca.

Rocky’s sets vary from the large industrial look of Philadelphia to smaller, more colorful spaces for the more private, intimate moments—such as Rocky’s apartment and the pet shop where he woos Adrian. For the scene in the meat locker, the sides of beef were cast from the real thing and recreated in plaster.

The one-ton boxing ring is ultimately the major scenic piece in the show, as it moves on wheels, flips down to act as a large video screen, and eventually moves out over the front rows of the audience as the people seated there are ushered onto the stage, creating the feel of a boxing arena for the final fight scene. Barreca notes he was “blessed with a great crew. They are like another performer in the show, and there is as much going on backstage as on stage.”

Barreca joins lighting designer Christopher Akerlind for a panel on the creative elements of Rocky, on Sunday, June 1 at Sardi’s Restaurant, as part of the 2014 Broadway Lighting Master Classes.