A great new musical is a chance that sadly dosent come along all that often. So when it does you must jump at the chance. Which is what I did when presented with this production.
The show presents a great timeline for a designer, one in 1944, and another in 1881. It features a cast of 12 characters, all female, which is great for a designer working in these periods! However, given the space where the show was to be performed it meant making adjustments to the clothes: a circular staircase getting from dressing room to stage level, and a very small playing space on stage meant the bustles had to be eliminated, trains had to be cut, and the construction of the clothes had to be IMPECCABLE as the audience was right up close and personal in a 99 seat theater.
When it came to creating the look of the clothes, the idea of a photograph was thrown around. The show is constructed as a memory, reliving the “good ol days” so we decided to have those in the present (1944) to be in dull browns and tans, whole those in the past (1881) would be the color of the story. This would allow the cherished memories from the past be able to take center stage, and allow the narrators from 1944 to fade into the back ground and almost disappear into the set. This became very important when the two women were staged not to leave the playing space.
The problem child with this show was the character of Pauline Rackam. Pauline is the director of the all female troupe that travels to Tombstone where Josie decides to stay. The character is based on a real person, who was in fact the head of an all female troupe. What was problematic is that she is described in the script as “being dressed as an English Gentlemen”. Given that the action tackes place in 1881, it is unheard of for a woman to be seen in public in pants. With much back and forth, research and compromise I decided to put the actress in pants and designed a very smart womens suit, tailored like a mans. As if she took it to her tailor and said ” Make this fit me”. The end result was very pretty, but I am still not convinced it was correct for the character. (And neither was one critic)
Josie I put in blue, to convey innocence, and chose an embroidered polyester dupioni (what?!) to convey wealth and strength. Faced with the challenge of dressing on stage, her clothes took the most time because the insides ha to be as finished as the outsides.
She needed a costume to become a sailor in HMS Pinafore, and a burlesque style something for her big number at the end of act one ” Little Black Sheep” with Cora and Maude dressed similarly (she would refer to them as a pig and a chicken so they got copies of the dress in yellow and pink).
Wyatt’s common law wife is addicted opium and has the feeling of a faded flower.I found this great fabric that had an impressionistic floral pattern to it, and found a great grayed lavender linen to go with it. It gave this great feeling of a faded beauty, or a flower that has been kept out of the sunlight. Especially when her hair was changed to s soft strawberry blonde wig. Velvet ribbons were added so that as the character begins her downward spiral she would literally come apart at the seams.
Kate is another outsider in the cast. She is the girlfriend of Doc Holliday and a gambler herself.I needed her to stand out from the wives, who were for the most part in a pastel and floral palate, so she was designed around an other embroidered polyester dupioni that i found in a rich jewel tone. This was accented with a black corset, cranberry velvet cuffs and lapels and strong black hair.
The other Earp wives were designed around pastels and flrorals, but constucted out of fabric that they would have had in 1881.
In the end I am very pleased with how the whole show came together. With the budget and time constraints I dont think I could have done a better job with the show. I ended up styling the wigs as well for the production, which added another lay of jobs for me, and my amazing assistant to deal with.
This is the New York premiere of the show, and i hope that the show has another life after this. It has its problems, but i hope that it will continue to develop so I can have the chance to work on this great show again.