Crew of hundreds nailed Madonna's halftime show

Hundreds of performers brought Madonna to the stage.
Published:
Updated:

Madonna wasn't the only one dealing with a case of nerves for the Super Bowl halftime show.

Local stagehands and 500 volunteers were in charge of getting her stage in place without any mistakes, in mere minutes. Madonna's big return, riding on a team of local volunteers entrusted to work in concert to set up a stage made for a queen.

It all goes down in the first eight minutes of halftime at Super Bowl XLVI.

"It was a rush," said Bill Bartholomew, a volunteer sworn to secrecy for weeks.

Bartholomew is now thrilled to talk about the scramble.

"It was so much fun. To see everyone come together, so many people," he said.

There were 500 volunteers pushing, pulling, and working to avoid the pinch.

"We killed the time," said halftime coordinator Douglas Cook. "We built the stage under five (minutes). When you watch the tape of us coming out, the first part under five minutes, built and locked in."

Cook has worked behind the scenes of ten Super Bowl halftime shows across the country. He knew about the choir, the band, and the glow of flashlights from fans last fall. The vision for Madonna's show was created in closely guarded drawings.

"They really dial this thing in. They try not to have any surprises, from all the lights to all the looks," Cook said, showing detailed renderings of specific performances.

Stagehands from Local 30 and across the country built the stage in pieces and then attached them to wheeled carts. Those same stagehands agreed to take the lead on the big assembly.

For days running up to the Super Bowl, secret practices were held, with more and more of Madonna's routine revealed.

"We did the entrance several times and all the dancing that was there and all the celebrities were there. Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. and Cee Lo Green and all those people were there, yes," Bartholomew said.

Still, there were anxious moments before the real thing. Cook learned the New England Patriots would be exiting into the same tunnel his volunteers had to enter.

"Not to mention the 200-member choir, (and) the marching band coming through," he recalled thinking to himself.

No problem. Cook said he was impressed with the volunteers response.

"These volunteers were really professional about it. Madonna came in and you could hear a pin drop. Then, of course, Madonna's like 'Are you guys ready?' And so now they're all screaming because she said the could," Cook said, laughing about the outburst.

A rousing start for a performance of a lifetime and the peaceful resolve that followed, as Madonna seemingly disappeared with smoke rising, the words "World Peace" projected onto the field below.