Behind the Scenes of Fashion Rocks

Last-minute changes, secrets and stars like Beyoncé are required accessories.

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WWD Music issue 09/04/2008
Jordan, who previously worked with Beyoncé on Fashion Rocks and the upcoming film “Cadillac Records,” credits the performer with getting other top talent to agree to use the band. “She trusts me….Other artists will see if Beyoncé’s doing it, then it must be cool.”

And while Brown cut his own track at Movies Rock, for his Fashion Rocks debut he handed the reins over to Jordan. “He’s a hot artist and he didn’t know what we were capable of I guess, but now he’s more at ease with letting us do it,” Jordan says. “We’re looking forward to doing that for him. He’s got great ideas, a wonderful imagination and he’s a great artist.”

Mischer adds, “[Brown] always wants the dramatic entrance [and] to come up with something special. It makes your job as a producer and a director a lot more fun when you have an artist who cares that much.”

To prevent performances from falling flat, Mischer, producing and directing this show for the first time, wants to create momentum by running through the 15 or 16 performances without stopping for mistakes. Afterward, the artists can re-tape their performances if needed. In the past, artists like Martina McBride have performed two completely separate songs, even s topping in between for applause. This year, there will be no pauses until the end.

“It creates a certain kind of electricity in the audience, and when they have that electricity they feed it back to the performers onstage,” Mischer says.

Although the show does not air until four days after it tapes, Jack Sussman, executive vice president of specials, music and live events at CBS, agrees, saying, “If you can keep everybody engaged in the theater, it’ll always create a better television experience.”

Also helping move the show along: production designer Anne Brahic, who recommended placing the band on a 44-inch turntable already installed at the venue, so they can “seamlessly” enter and exit with a simple spin, and choreographer Fatima Robinson, who provides high-energy transitions. For example, during the Motown medley, Robinson suggested creating vignettes, such as four guys dressed up as the Four Tops and three girls decked out as The Supremes, complete with the era’s wigs and wares, and then cutting back and forth between the artists and dancers for a “fast-paced” vibe.

“It’s almost like the opening of ‘Dreamgirls,’” says Robinson, who choreographed the film.

But of course, this idea may never come to pass, as everything is subject to change. “It’s always something at the last moment. It’s ‘so-and-so canceled, but we have so-and-so, and they want 10 dancers,’” says Robinson.

Kroeze echoes that down-to-the-wire feeling, explaining that he has to wait to see what each fashion house sends before he can pick the right combination of “cutting edge” and “glamorous” pieces for the show, which happens to take place right at the start of New York Fashion Week.

And song selection is always a long, collaborative process. “Richard and I as producers cannot just say to an artist, ‘You’re going to do this.’ It’s got to be worked out to the satisfaction of the artist,” says Mischer. That means going back and forth between each performer’s team before settling on the final mix of old and current songs. Mischer, who has won 13 Emmys for his work on televised events including the Tony Awards, adds, “A lot of this does not fall into place until the last 10 days.”

And even if they know what elements will be included in the show more in advance, don’t expect them to share. Bet on big-name celebrity presenters, hush-hush tributes and “surprise duet partners that will be water cooler talk the next day,” says Sussman.

But when the curtain falls at the end of the night, the CBS executive divulged exactly what will happen: “The first thing we do is turn to each other and go, ‘Now what are we going to do next year?’”
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