Category — Costume Design
On Broadway, designer Tobin Ost isn’t a perfect Victorian
Tobin Ost is not interested in being Victorian. Or at least not slavishly so. He might be designing sets and costumes for the Broadway revival of Jekyll & Hyde, now at the Marriott Marquis, but if it helps him tell a story, he’s happy to manipulate the style of 19th century England.
That might surprise audiences expecting a period version of the musical, which has a score by Frank Wildhorn and book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse. Based on the 1886 novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, it follows a scientist who tries to separate good from evil and ends up turning himself into the evil Mr. Hyde. For Ost, the implications of that transformation are more significant than a particular historical era. “The story is hard-edged and aggressive, and we needed to find ways to make it sinister and dangerous onstage as well,” he says.
To that end, Ost looked at materials that could exist in Victorian England but also feel contemporary. For example, when Dr. Jekyll, played by Constantine Maroulis, transforms into Mr. Hyde, he doesn’t drink a potion. He uses a large contraption with colored liquids and wires to inject himself with a drug, which Ost felt would have more contemporary resonance and be more stage worthy and frightening.
However, Ost and director Jeff Calhoun—who have collaborated for a decade on musicals like Newsies and Bonnie and Clyde—misfired at least 4 times before landing on a design idea that could support the entire production.
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April 11, 2013 No Comments
Inside the horror musical “The House of Von Macramé”
Welcome to Borough Play, our exclusive series on theatre in Brooklyn, Queens, and beyond
You might think that a musical billed as a “pop horror fashion show” would require a fair amount of research. But for playwright Joshua Conkel, whose The House of Von Macramé runs at the Bushwick Starr through Feb. 9, writing came fairly instinctually.
“I was a latchkey kid,” he explains. “Every day after school I’d go to the video store and rent a different movie.” When Conkel ran out of typical fair like Friday the 13th he turned to European horror movies. In particular, Suspiria and other Italian giallos, or hrillers. “There’s always a black-gloved killer and maybe a supernatural element. These movies are always super stylish and glamorous.”
In Conkel’s The House of Von Macramé, which features spooky synth music by Matt Marks, we meet Britt, a young aspiring model who comes to New York City and gets swept under the wing of Edsel Von Macramé, an eccentric fashion designer. “She begins to have psychic visions of other models being murdered,” says Conkel, “and she begins to suspect that Edsel may be a part of this.”
February 1, 2013 No Comments
Why the fashion designer joined The New Group’s “The Good Mother”
With her work on Off-Broadway play The Good Mother, famed fashion designed Cynthia Rowley is revisiting a crossroads from her life.
“There was a time when I first moved to New York when I kind of wanted to do costumes,” Rowley says. “I actually one time talked to [costume designer] Ann Roth on the phone, and I was so in awe of her—I’m still in awe of her—and I thought, ‘Maybe I could go be her apprentice or something.’ That’s one of those fork-in-the-road moments where I had to figure it out. One or the other.”
Rowley went on to do pretty well for herself—to put it mildly—designing everything from women’s wear to fragrance. Now, she’s responsible for making Gretchen Mol look convincing as a barely-getting-by single mother in The New Group’s latest production, written by Francine Volpe and directed by Scott Elliott.
Rowley wasn’t looking for “extra credit” activities when Elliott approached her, but ultimately, she couldn’t resist the chance. “I was drunk on Scott Elliott!” she says with a laugh. More seriously, she adds, “It was just for love of Scott and The New Group and Gretchen Mol. That was what immediately convinced me. Also, I knew it wasn’t a huge period piece with hundreds of actors. It’s a small cast and contemporary wardrobe. I don’t want to say it was easy, but it was definitely not a lot of building of costumes.”
November 30, 2012 No Comments
Jennifer Hurlbert finds what costume designers need
She almost sounds like a theatrical superhero. Without leaving New York, Jennifer Hurlbert contributes to the costume designs of shows across the country.
But that doesn’t mean she can jump tall mannequins in a single bound. As the resident designer of TDF’s Costume Collection, Hurlbert is a liaison to artists nationwide, working to provide them with costumes their productions need.
TDF’s Costume Collection boasts over 75,000 pieces from Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional theatre, and opera productions, and it rents those pieces at low rates to theatres and schools. If, say, a high school needs 20 chorus outfits for Bye Bye Birdie or a small company needs elegant fairy dresses for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Collection will have options.
September 4, 2012 No Comments
Behind the parody costumes in Forbidden Broadway
Jenny Lee Stern, in a beaded two-piece pantsuit and green scarf, channels Judy Garland while singing “You Made Me Love You.” Except here the lyrics are, “You played me loony. I didn’t want to do it.” Because this is Forbidden Broadway, the musical revue that satirizes the Great White Way, back from a three-year hiatus in its latest incarnation, Alive and Kicking!
The pantsuit will look familiar to anyone who saw End of the Rainbow, the recently-closed Broadway play about the waning days of Garland’s career. “I took making the costumes recognizable very seriously,” says costume designer Philip Heckman. He also wanted the suit, constructed from Italian silk brocade and embellished with thousands of Swarovski crystals, to be as true to the original as possible.
Heckman has the advantage of being connected to the backstage wardrobe crews and supervisors for many Broadway productions, having worked as a costume design assistant on shows like Born Yesterday and The Boy from Oz. He even got special permission from Rainbow star Tracie Bennett to visit her dressing room at The Belasco Theatre to photograph her costumes, take color samples, and collect fabric swatches.
August 22, 2012 1 Comment