Set Designer Derek McLane Takes Playbill Inside the Worlds of The Heiress, Last Five Years, Tiffany's and More

By Michael Gioia
16 Apr 2013

The world premiere of Bunty Berman Presents… is McLane's current project. Set in a 1950s Bollywood studio and incorporating music inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood, The New Group production began previews April 12 for a run through June 1. Opening night is set for May 9.

"It's really a funny comedy about a Bollywood producer in the 1950s in Bombay whose movie studio is failing, and he's trying to create a hit," said McLane. "He's trying to rescue his movie studio from bankruptcy… It's a pretty funny piece, and it's a totally unusual world for a musical — India in the 1950s. The [show is] set in his studio — the Bunty Berman soundstage — and it has to become a zillion different places through the course of the show, which is a challenge at The New Group because the theatre's tiny."

McLane pulled from his earlier days, when he lived in India, to design the Off-Broadway show. "I've actually been to India a lot, and I lived in India when I was a child," he said. "I couldn't find very many good photographs of movie studios from that era, and the movie studios in India now look pretty much like the movie studios here in Hollywood… So some of that [design] is really imagined. But one of my memories from childhood is that my parents used to take me to a carnival in Calcutta, and I would ride on the Ferris wheel, [which] was made entirely of bamboo that was lashed together… My memory of the bamboo Ferris wheel became sort of my inspiration."

The challenges of working in The Acorn Theatre, where the new work plays, included working with no fly space or automation and limited wing space and depth. "We had to embrace that," said McLane. "[The show] has that kind of handmade quality to it."

For more on McLane's new project, visit