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Category — Costume Design

Broadway’s Master of Hair

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Why Paul Huntley’s wigs are vital for Broadway stars

Clothes may make the man but hair makes the character. So believes Paul Huntley, the veteran hair and wig designer with more than 200 Broadway productions to his credit (and that doesn’t include his extensive Off Broadway and film work).

Currently represented by Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella and Mamma Mia! , Huntley was born and trained in London, England where he began working professionally in 1949. He relocated to the U.S. four decades ago at the invitation of Mike Nichols to work on a revival of Uncle Vanya. That production was short-lived, but nevertheless, Huntley quickly became one of the Main Stem’s most in-demand hair designers, working on a slew of high-profile productions (Cats, Les Misérables, Hairspray, The Producers, Anything Goes twice, Hello, Dolly! twice) with some of the theatre’s biggest divas (Carol Channing, Donna Murphy, Patti LuPone, Sutton Foster, and Angela Lansbury, to name just a handful).

Despite hair and wig design falling under the auspices of the costume designer, Huntley has managed to become a superstar in his own right. Many costume designers demand his services, notably the legendary William Ivey Long, with whom he’s had a long and fruitful collaboration. Huntley has also been showered with accolades. In 2002 TDF’s Irene Sharaff Awards gave him the Artisan Award, and he’s also earned special lifetime achievement honors from the Tony and Drama Desk Awards.

And while he could certainly retire and rest on his laurels, the strikingly youthful senior shows no signs of slowing down. He’s already at work on several upcoming Broadway productions, including Bullets Over Broadway and The Velocity of Autumn.

Although much has changed in his field since Huntley’s career began, he believes his mission remains the same: “[I'm here] to help give the actor all the confidence in the world,” he says. “Even when you talk about being a purist about a particular era, if an actor says, ‘Oh, I couldn’t possibly look like that,’ well, then they don’t have to. You can never alienate them. Often what I say is, ‘Well look, let’s try this, and if you hate it we’ll change it.’ You have to remember, it’s the actor that’s going out there, and they have to feel self-assured. So if a style isn’t strictly period, it never worries me.” [Read more →]

January 3, 2014   No Comments

Two Shakespeares, One Company

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How the Globe juggles Richard III and Twelfth Night in the same Broadway theatre

This is Part I of our series on Shakespeare in rep. Read Part II, on how the team works with period-appropriate designs

“Here’s where we were lucky,” Bryan Paterson says, although he’s speaking of the kind of luck that tends to be created.

Paterson has worked since 1998 as a stage manager for London’s outdoor Globe Theatre, which will present as many as six productions in repertory, including three different shows in a single day. “It can get a bit complicated at times,” he says. So his latest assignment—a four-month Broadway stint that has brought a mere two plays, Richard III and Twelfth Night, to the Belasco Theatre—is downright leisurely by comparison.

“It’s a walk in the park here,” he says. And it has been made even easier for the fortuitous circumstances that Paterson mentioned earlier—specifically the ones made possible by Tim Carroll and Jenny Tiramani, the shows’ director and designer, respectively.

“We did Twelfth Night about 10 years ago, whereas Richard III only opened last year,” Paterson says. “So Jenny and Tim were very clever in designing Richard with almost entirely the same sets and props we had for Twelfth Night. Except for a few pole arms, it’s all the same swords and all the same furniture.”

But not the same dialogue, obviously, although Mark Rylance’s upbeat, rollicking rendition of Richard III’s opening monologue almost gives the play the sense of a comedy. Among his costars in both pieces is Samuel Barnett, who plays a reluctant semi-suitor (Viola) to Rylance’s Olivia in Twelfth Night and an unlikely would-be procurer (Queen Elizabeth) for the “poisonous bunch-back’d toad” in Richard III.

Barnett, who is pictured above as Queen Elizabeth and was last seen on the New York stage in The History Boys, says he much prefers having two different plays to perform on Wednesdays and Saturdays. “It never feels natural to me to do a matinee and then an evening of the same show,” he says. “I feel like, ‘I’ve already done this today!’” [Read more →]

November 8, 2013   No Comments

Designing “Jekyll & Hyde”

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

Blood, Fashion, and Songs

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.”

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February 1, 2013   No Comments

Cynthia Rowley Goes Off Broadway

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.”

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November 30, 2012   No Comments