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‘The Show’ Pulls Back the Curtain on The Weeknd’s Super Bowl Halftime Performance

Billboard logo Billboard 9/24/2021 Gil Kaufman

There are a million moving parts behind a successful Super Bowl halftime show. Make that a billion for a halftime show during the COVID-19 pandemic, and then up it to a trillion if you decided to shoot a 90-minute documentary about the making of a Super Bowl halftime performance during the global health crisis.

That’s the backstory of The Show, a behind-the-scenes film that debuts on Showtime Friday (Sept. 24, 9 p.m.), and takes viewers into the belly of the halftime beast by focusing on the many people you never see who make the elaborate annual 12-minute spectacle come to life. From the pyro crew to the choreographers, directors, set designers and, in one of the sweetest vignettes, two Nigerian-born twin brothers who volunteered to dance in the big dance number that capped this year’s thrilling performance from The Weeknd.

“When the opportunity presented itself to do this doc, I was excited about it because there is so much history behind the scenes … that was the way it was presented, ‘We’re gonna really showcase the people behind that make the Super Bowl happen,'” Jesse Collins, executive producer of the Pepsi Super Bowl LV halftime show tells Billboard about the decision to up the ante and shoot a making-of movie in the midst of the already very challenging COVID-19-impacted production schedule.

“It could be really inspirational to shine a light on them and show the world how this thing comes together,” Collins — a veteran of the Grammys and Oscars — says about pulling back the curtain on the village it took to build one of the most elaborate, unusual sets in halftime history.

We watch as the team builds a 100,000-pound cityscape in the stands at Raymond James Stadium, as well as the 7,000 lightbulb “infinity land” space inside that set in order to work around the vexing inability to use the grass football pitch that the show is typically set up on.

“The scariest part was the unknown because we didn’t know where we would be in terms of COVID on Super Bowl Sunday, and we started developing this in September and October [of 2020], so we just kept building and we had to be fluid and know we may have to adjust based on what was happening in the world at the last minute,” says Collins of the show that was seen by nearly 100 million viewers around the world on Feb. 7.

In keeping with the doc’s goal of pointing a spotlight on the people you don’t typically meet, one of the most affecting storylines follows brothers Divine and Ezeugo Anozie, part of the massive volunteer cast of dancers who helped bring the show home with an elaborate dance routine. In one segment, their proud mom gushes about how she would be the happiest woman in the world if they were chosen to participate, then frets when she finds out the gig will require two weeks of unpaid toil. We also see the pair practicing on the basketball court and in the street outside their Tampa home, with their excited family joining in on the choreography.

Collins is proud that the film shows people doing jobs most viewers probably never knew existed, and that it chronicles how they become a gigantic extended family. All this despite having to do months of work on Zoom before finally getting together in person two weeks before the big game to run through the tightly scripted set. In fact, until the actual performance at the end, we don’t see much of the very hands-on star of the show, which Collins says was a deliberate choice.

“You think it’s just like, ‘Oh, we’ll add this song in,’ but it affects hundreds of people and it trickles down and [the movie] shows what it’s like to manage something like that,” Collins says of a section of the doc in which choreographer Charm La’Donna sweats it when The Weeknd’s team inquires about changing up the set list with just weeks to go before showtime.

And though his artistic vision hangs over the entire spectacle, a brief scene near the end shows that The Weeknd was well aware of the insane amount of work it took from hundreds of people to make it all happen. Dressed in his signature sparkly red jacket and black shirt and tie, the singer — born Abel Tesfaye — swoops through the backstage area on his way to the towering set, slapping hands along the way and smiling at the crew behind the scenes.

“That’s to show that he connected with everybody in the production and that they were family, so it was important to see that they’re all there and excited even as we’re all terrified [about what could go wrong],” Collins says of the seconds before everything went live. “That whole group of people put it on the line to help support the artist’s vision and create a performance that people love. But it’s also so that some kid who says, ‘I could do that job … I could be part of this’ can see that those opportunities are available.”

Watch the trailer for The Show below.

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