What it feels like to work for Madonna

October 02, 2008
Wednesday, October 1st 2008, 4:00 AM

Madonna's "Sticky & Sweet Tour" touches down in the New York area Saturday for five sold - out dates. The extravagant production has already broken attendance records in Europe and is sure to do the same here.

But the Queen of Pop is only as good as her courtiers. A skilled creative team carefully collaborates to match Madonna's tour theme with costumes, choreography and video clips.

And with multiple themes, that's no easy task. Four different acts move Madonna through her set list. It starts with "Pimp," paying tribute to gangstas, then "Old School," which honors her early days in New York. A "Gypsy" act is next, followed by "Rave" - featuring dance hits and robot - like fashions.

Here are some of the hardworking staffers who make it all happen:


Arianne Phillips

AGE: Won't say

JOB: Costume designer

HOURS: 13 hours a day, 6 - 7 days a week

MONTHS ON THE JOB: 4; she started prepping for the tour in May, and then attended the first three shows in Europe. Phillips worked on Madonna's previous four tours and has helped wardrobe the star offstage for 11 years.

Q: How many costumes did you have to put together for the show?

A: There are 25 performers besides Madonna who change six to eight times. Madonna has eight costume changes. And everyone gets doubles of everything, including the shoes, to last the duration of the tour. Madonna sometimes has up to six copies of one particular outfit so that it always looks fresh and great.

Q: What lengths do you go to to track down pieces or materials?

A: We develop a lot of her clothes ourselves. So we go to the end of the earth if we have to to find the right fabric. Or if we have shoes made, we collaborate with wonderful people at Miu Miu and Prada. Madonna gets to play different characters, whether it's a sexy robot or a gypsy.

Q: Which is your favorite of the four acts in terms of the clothing designs?

A: That's like asking me to choose which child is my favorite. But I particularly love the rave/futuristic section. It was daunting because I always have issues with futuristic costumes. I wanted to make sure that it was going to have some value to the contemporary eye and mean something. We came up with this hybrid of Sexy Robot Joan of Arc for Madonna.

Q: What was the toughest act to design costumes for?

A: Developing the "Old School" section was tricky and it took a lot of prototypes. That particular costume, which I thought initially would be the easiest because she was being herself in the early '80s and it's the most casual, was the most difficult to develop because of the choreography and the active quality in that section. Also, we had to make sure that it was theatrically worthy and exciting enough for the audience.

Q: What was the result?

A: A pair of jersey shorts that changes color depending on what night you're there. There's a T - shirt that Prada made for us, a little hoodie that we made with Swarovski crystals. Everything is embellished with Swarovski crystals. We have over , million worth of crystals in the show. we're very sensitive to the fact that Madonna's performing in stadiums and not just arenas like last time, so we want to make sure that everyone can see her and the dancers. So the crystals are really helpful.


Jamie King

AGE: in his 30s

JOB: show director

HOURS: about 16 hours per day, including e - mailing through the night, 6 - 7 days per week.

MONTHS ON THE JOB: more than 4

Q: This is the fourth tour you've directed for Madonna. Why did the two of you decide to do four separate acts?

A: In the "Drowned World" tour in 2001, we established that four - act sectionalizing of the show, so We've just stayed with that format. it's good for us creatively because it allows us to change the look of the set, the stage, [and] adapt song arrangements.

Q: Madonna's perched on top of a car in one scene from the show. What's that about?

A: We used an old - fashion car in our "Pimp" section. We thought if we were going to pimp it out, let's not do something contemporary, but let's do our own version of a classy pimp and what that would look like. So our car looks more like a Rolls - Royce, but we still blinged it out. The license plate says M Dollar and it's for a song called, "The Beat Goes On."

Q: And why does she jump rope at one point?

A: She's doing Double Dutch, which was birthed in the streets of New York City. it's in our "Old School" section and Double Dutch is really of that kind of early breaking, pop - locking period on the streets.

Q: You've directed recent tours by the Spice Girls, Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne, Christina Aguilera and Ricky Martin. How does working for Madonna compare?

A: I don't know any other artist who pushes the envelope more than Madonna. it's because she's always willing to try new things and wants to explore.

Q: The "Sticky & Sweet" tour recently stirred up controversy with a video montage that's shown during the song "Get Stupid," which compares John McCain to Hitler. How did that come about?

A: Madonna is very political, and it's important for us to always express every side of her when she goes onstage because her show is an extension of her. Madonna's changed the views of the world and how things are perceived - whether it be sex or politics or image, and since she's very political, we have to incorporate that into the show.

Q: Is there any concern it might alienate fans who may be Republicans or fans of McCain?

A: Madonna's message has always been stand for what you believe in, no matter what it is.

Q: At what point do you get to sit back and enjoy the show?

A: I never stop freaking out. I'm always nervous and I think that's the great thing about both Madonna and me. we're always nervous because we want to make sure that the audience gets a great show.


Tom Munro

AGE: 43

JOB: Video clip director for "Die Another Day"

HOURS: Four or five hours per day for two or three weeks, including research and preparation; video was shot in one day.

Q: You directed a video of Madonna boxing for the song "Die Another Day" that's shown during a break. Why is that an important part of the show?

A: it's played on three enormous monitors while Madonna is changing, so she's not actually on stage. The video keeps everyone entertained while she's off [stage]. And then there are dancers on stage - two guys who are choreographed in a dance - move boxing thing.

Q: Where'd you shoot the video?

A: We shot it at Steiner Studios in Brooklyn in June. It was a one - day shoot. The preparation for it was a lot longer because I did all the lighting as well, which was quite involved. So we had a day to set up the props and create the environment, a day to test the lighting, and then, on the third day, we shot Madonna. I also shot all the stills for the tour book, so it was a busy day.

Q: How does Madonna compare with other artists you've shot?

A: Madonna is the biggest icon in pop culture, and she's an incredibly inspiring subject. In my career, I haven't worked with anybody that gives as much to the camera and the creative process as Madonna has done. And for a photographer/director, that's a great treat because you can only do your best if you're being given the material to work with.

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