Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Making of Costumes for Seussical the Musical - Part 3 - The Whos

Part 3 of the story of making the costumes for Seussical the Musical starts off with the Whos from Whoville. Dr Seuss’s original books show these as little furry creatures with strange hairdos and pointy up noses, although recent animation and films have depicted them as people, often wearing 1950s style clothing – which influenced my designs. 

In Seussical, The Cat uses his imagination to zoom in on the tiny speck of dust that turns out to be The Planet of Who.  In the song Here on Who, Mr and Mrs Mayor and the rest of the Whos describe their lives and their tiny town, and sing about an imminent War and the gusts of wind that blow the dust speck around.  They beg Horton to help protect them and their very small and fragile planet, and Horton promises to do so, saying “A persons a person, no matter how small”. 

And of course, I can’t forget Jo-Jo, the Mayor’s son – whose imagination and escapades with The Cat get him into lots of trouble before he emerges as the hero and save the day – but more of that later.  Egged on by The Cat, Jo-Jo imagines Fish swimming in McElligot's Pool when he is taking a bath - It's Possible.  When Jo-Jos latest “thinks” flood the house, his parent’s patience is broken and Jo-Jo is sent to The Military – an academy for difficult boys run by General Genghis Khan Schmitz. 

Mr Mayor and the Whos from Whoville (Copyright Peter Cook)

Louise Ryan, our Musical Director wanted bright primary colours for our Whos,  so I bought metres and metres of red, blue and yellow lycra and show satin to make 1950’s styles full circle skirts for the “girl” Whos. Very simple to make and elasticated waists meant I didn’t need to do lots of time consuming fittings.  The tops were based on lycra leotards (again easy fit), with added jackets or cardigans for the older girls.  

Mr & Mrs Mayor (Copyright Peter Cook)
Mrs Mayor was played by the lovely Libby Rogers.  I wanted Mrs Mayor to be more “grown up“ than the other adult Whos – a combination of mumsy and 1950’s formal. I tracked down a lovely red tailored Karen Millen jacket which looked gorgeous on Libby, but although it was a cheap second hand buy and had a couple of marks on it, I did feel a bit bad adapting it for a costume!  Libby added a lovely flower to a bun in her hair – perfect.

Mr Mayor needed to look formal as well – I sourced a great Boating style blue jacket with red and white stripes and teamed it with an old  yellow rugby shirt and cheap working men’s canvas trousers in bright red. Rhodri Denton, who played the Mayor was delighted that his outfit wasn’t lycra or satin, but wasn’t too impressed with the straw boater I added as a final touch – fair play, he wore it and it looked great.

Twirly  Skirts & Stripy Tights
For the Whos, I wanted every costume to be slightly different, had great fun adding bindings, frills and flounces in different colours and styles and I found some brilliant big buttons with polka dots and stripes.  As I finished each costume, I hung it off the picture rail in my hall, and I used to love walking past and seeing the gorgeous colour combinations. These costumes were cute, especially when I added some coloured and stripy tights to the mix.

Being very lazy, I didn’t measure many of the cast – I relied on the forgiving nature of lycra and elastic. I gave the teenage girls playing Adult WhosMari, Sophie, Libby, Laura, Alex and Chloe - a batch of elasticated waist satin circle skirts, lycra leotards and trimmed jackets in different sizes. They spent a very giggly half hour swopping round to get the best fit and colour combinations – thanks girls.
Here on Who  (Copyright Peter Cook
Boys from Who

Sophie, Nia, Sally, Ellie, Celyn, Lottie and Maddy who played the little Who Girls, pounced on their full circle skirts at rehearsals and kept twirling round and got so dizzy that they nearly fell over! Directors not happy with me!

Many of the Whos had bought their own primary coloured shoes, but for others I dyed some old satin and canvas ballet shoes (I did this for a lot of the Jungle Animals too). I didn’t have enough time to paint each pair individually, so I soaked them in batches of different colour dyes using a solution made from powdered fabric dyes. It was nearly a disaster when some of the inner soles came apart as the glue dissolved – but luckily the shoes themselves stayed intact and could still be worn.  Whew! 

We had two Boy Whos, Declan and my son Ioan.  I made their costumes from lycra for easy changes and chose colour combinations that contrasted nicely with Mr Mayor.

Not surprisingly, both boys turned their noses up at standard jazz trousers which tend to have a bootleg flare but they did consent to wearing a straight leg style with pleated fronts and lycra shirts with 1950s collars and big buttons.  

Jo Jo in the bath tub (Copyright Peter Cook)
Jo Jo was played by Daniel Williams and this is the only outfit I didn’t touch at all - a friend of Daniel’s mum did his, and she did a fantastic job in recreating the  perfect look for our troubled teenage boy. Check out his top – each of the blue bands was individually sewn on to a white t-shirt get the right width stripes. Brilliant!
Some of the younger Whos and Jungle Animals had a number of roles in the show with very quick side of stage changes.  This first happened with the fish in McElligot's Pool. The choreographers, Natasha and Chloe Evans, had created a lovely flowing dance for this song and we needed costumes that worked with this. However, we didn’t have the facilities (or time) for complete costume changes so I needed to have base costumes that could be very quickly “adapted” into other roles. The simplest solution was to create flowing outfits in stretchy lycra that they could just pop over the kids heads. However, I was working with girl and boy Whos in primary colours and some Jungles in gold and peach!  I decided that each fish would fantastical rather than realistic, in different styles and colours that went well with their main costumes.   The girls all had floaty “dresses” in pinks, oranges, yellows and blues, depicting a jellyfish with mesh streamers, a silvery blue tropical fish, a winged angel fish and an anemone with scalloped edges. I kept the boys in primary colours, using a psychedelic swirly lycra to create a vivid flatfish and a foiled lycra for a shark  with pointy fins on its back.   I’m still trying to track down a photo – they must have swam too fast for the photographer!

The General introduces Jo Jo to the Military Academy
General Genghis Khan Schmitz was played by Joe Williams.  I bought an authentic army jacket off eBay and added lots of glitzy braid and tassels. I was going to use some of my great grandfather’s Boer war medals, but these were very heavy and I was concerned they may fall off and get lost. I did use some of his lighter “medals” though, that he had been awarded for long service to the National Savings Scheme!!!  

Cadets in The Military (Copyright Peter Cook)

The Cadet costumes were simple – these were Who kids who had been sent to “Military School” so we just added khaki green t-shirts with Schmitz printed in gold. 

(Note the plastic swords were issued to each cadet as they marched onto stage – to prevent the older cast members stealing them to play-fight in the wings!) 

Gosh – this has been a long blog - next time I’ll be having a visit from the Birds which I promise will be shorter!

(For those of you with younger Seuss fans (or those who are just young at heart) I’ve found this fab Dr Seuss website with games and activities)

The Old Button is more than happy for you to use these costume ideas as inspiration for your own production. 
Pinning through Pinterest is fine as long as you credit The Old Button but please respect the copyright of the photos, and do not reproduce in other forms without permission. 

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Making the Costumes for Seussical the Musical - Part 2 - The Cat and The Jungle of Nool

I’d like to continue sharing the story of the Seussical the Musical costumes by looking at the characters as they appear in the songs.  

The show opens with The Cat in the Hat telling a small boy about The Things you can Think in your imagination and conjures up a magical world of crazy animals and little people too tiny to see. We see an elephant hearing small voices on a speck of dust in Horton Hears a Who , only to find he is ridiculed by a kangaroo and the other animals from the Jungle of Nool in The Biggest Blame Fool

Kayed Mason as The Cat in the Hat  (Copyright Peter Cook)

I had lots of fun with the costume for The Cat in the Hat. The very talented Kayed Mason who played the Cat has the most amazing energy and he danced, jumped, crawled and pirouetted his way throughout the whole performance. Lots of movement room was needed here, so I started with a pair of black lycra jazz trousers.  A tail cost, white bib and floppy red bow, teamed with the famous red and white hat completed the typical Cat in The Hat look. 

The Cat in the Hat interviews Mayzie  (Copyright Peter Cook)

However, Kayed relishes crazy costumes, and was up for a slightly off beat version of The Cat, so I  altered the trousers down to give a lean look and added a slim fitting red and white sleeveless t-shirt under his jacket. Adding cuffs, red braces and red and white stripy socks shifted the look into something a little more zany, especially when he took his jacket off here to play The Cat as a Reporter in The Biggest Blame Fool!

Lloyd Davies as Horton (Copyright Peter Cook)
The role of Horton the Elephant was played by a very tall and slender Lloyd Davies who constantly teased throughout rehearsals by the need to use pillows to add to his girth. 

However, for the show I agreed with the Directors that his costume could be based on a hired donkey costume and “Fat Suit”. 

Last minute changes!
For his ears I covered the skull part of an old felt hat with grey fleece fabric and sewed on two big pink and grey ears. 

Tap Dancing Horton (Copyright Peter Cook)

Following the first night I felt his costume needed something more, so I tacked a big pink “H” in fleece fabric to his stomach. I had to make sure I could remove it without leaving marks though otherwise the Costume Hire Firm would not be happy!

As well as a great singer and actor, Lloyd is a trained ballet and tap dancer, so I dyed old ballet shoes grey to match his outfit, allowing him to have a very easy quick change into tap shoes for a little tap solo at the end of the show.  

Emily Langford as Sour Kangaroo (Copyright Peter Cook)
The Sour Kangaroo was actually the last costume I made.  In Dr Suess’s book, The Sour Kangaroo is a purple character, but I wanted her to be in gold as I thought it would be a better contrast with the other costumes I had created.  

I scoured eBay and begged friends for gold coloured ball gowns and eventually found a gorgeous gold halterneck dress. 

Sour with Young Kangaroo (Copyright Peter Cook)

This colour looked amazing on Emily Langford who played "Sour" but we both felt it needed sleeves to blend the dress into the Young Kangaroo hand puppet that she has to hold up all through the show. 

I cut off the bottom of the overlay skirt to make sleeves, and bought some gold satin to make the halter neck into a full bodice. I added some sparkly bronze fabric to the central panel to suggest a kangaroo’s pouch, but I kept the style of the dress long with simple lines to give the impression of a long tailed creature.  

Emily has an amazing voice and gives a very powerful performance and I wanted her costume to portray a proper Diva moment. I think she looks like a beautiful medieval princess and very haughty – a perfect feel for this character who rules the other animals.  

Just like the other animal characters, the Citizens of the Jungle of Nool needed to be representative of creatures rather than wearing furry animal costumes. I wanted bright colourful shiny animals that allowed lots of movement to go with the great choreography. Having made many dance costumes for my children I realised that I could customise some lycra costumes I already made and had found on eBay.   I hoped it would speed up the costume making time if I didn’t have to do everything from scratch, and I liked the fact I was recycling unwanted costumes. 

Here are just a few of the Jungle animals, I’ll be showing more in future blogs.

Butterfly, Leopard and Lizard (Copyright Peter Cook)
The Blue Butterfly was the first outfit I made. It started with a metallic lycra cat suit I had bought a few years back but was never used. I created enormous wings from a blue and silver lace and attached them to the arms and back of a silver and blue over bodice. It looked really effective when the arms were raised which featured a lot in the dance moves.   Holly put her hair into high pony tails to create antennae and painted wings on her face with sparkly pink, green and silver face paints. 

My daughter  Elen (in the middle) really wanted to wear this Green Snow Leopard crop top and hotpants. It looked stunning but I felt was a tad skimpy for this production. I cut up an old black dance bodysuit and sewed a mesh middle panel between the shorts and top. I also added anklets to the black tights.  Her swingy tail is a gorgeous fluffy lime marabou string I sewed to the shorts, which she found great for swishing about.

I wasn’t sure whether I’d get the two teenage boy Jungle Citizens into lycra but I really wanted their outfits to be as bright at the girls. Starting with Jamie. We had a chat and happily found a compromise!  The Red Lizard is based on a red and silver lycra boys dance vest with added fabric spikes and a tattoo motif that he wore over his own black t-shirt and joggers. A fab punk wig in red and black made a great spiky lizard crest.
Green Tree Frog (Copyright Peter Cook)

Laura had asked if she could be a Green Tree Frog. I bought a shiny green leotard from eBay and added a green net tutu to get a froggy shape. However, it was looking a bit dull so I inserted sparkly spotty lycra panels to the front and back. I cut a pair of green dance tights into leggings and armlets, and used the spotty fabric as trim. Her mum customised an old pair of orange cotton gloves for the “sucker hands” and I dyed some ballet shoes bright orange for her “sucker feet”.  

(Laura’s mum was one of our fabulous make up ladies – they did a great job copying the motifs from the costumes onto faces and necks.)
Lion (Copyright Peter Cook)

As well as being a Jungle animal, Nadya needed to be a creature in the circus. Luckily she was cast as a Circus Lion which worked perfectly for the Jungle too. Whew –I only needed to do one costume. 

Despite looking on eBay for ages, I struggled to find something suitable in her size. In the end I bought a couple of child size gold/orange outfits, including one for a 3-4 year old, and cut them up. Piecing them into an outfit to fit a young teenager was like doing patchwork, and it is a good thing lycra is so forgiving and stretchy.  

In the end she looked fabulous in a leotard and leggings with attached flowing cape to suggest a mane. Although in hindsight, it would have been easier to have bought fabric and made it from scratch!

I think I’ll leave you here for a little while, but I’ll continue the story next time with a visit to the little Seussical creatures who live on the Planet of Who.

The Old Button is more than happy for you to use these costume ideas as inspiration for your own production. 
Pinning through Pinterest is fine as long as you credit The Old Button but please respect the copyright of the photos, and do not reproduce in other forms without permission.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Costumes for Seussical the Musical - Part 1

When I started my blog in February this year, I had just finished making all costumes for a production of Seussical the Musical and I promised that I would some post up photos when I got them. Well, I got the disk last weekend and WOW! These amazing photos deserve more than a little mention so I thought I’d share the story of Seussical through the costumes.   

I have to admit that although I have read a few of his books, I was not a huge all out fan of Dr Suess.  I loved Green Eggs and Ham and I thought The Cat in The Hat was ok, but that was about it. And being forced to sit through the cartoon movie of Horton Hears a Who just confirmed my preconception that it was all a bit saccharine-sweet and a little too cheesy for my taste.  So when it was announced that the second Louise Ryan Vocal School production would be a musical based on the books of Dr Seuss, I rather surprised, especially as it had to follow the previous year’s amazing production of Oliver the Musical!

Seussical the Musical - I hadn’t even heard of it, and neither had most of the students and parents.

Undeterred, both Directors - Louise Ryan and Natasha Evans - sent out links to Youtube clips and told everyone to go away and look it up ……  

Well, 2 days later I was hooked. Seussical has clever lyrics, catchy songs and the scope for a big cast, but most importantly for me, it had the opportunity for the most AMAZING COSTUMES ever…  I wanted to do those costumes – all of them. I offered to get involved and my hand was snatched off by Louise and Natasha, who admitted that the costumes had to be pretty impressive and they needed help. I had just become Wardrobe Mistress, and I don’t think any of us realised at that stage exactly what a job it would be. 

They started rehearsals in September. Both of my children were in the ensemble groups – Elen was cast as a Jungle of Nool citizen and Ioan was to be a young Who plus a fish, a circus performer and a Hunch. Between them, they were involved in most of the scenes, so I found myself attending all the rehearsals – which was great as I could see how each character developed and how they moved. 

Overall there were 43 children and young people cast in the show, ranging from 8 years old through to teenagers and a few young adults. Luckily most of the cast had a single role and only needed one costume (whew) but there were a couple who needed costumes changes and a small group with multiple parts.  Overall I needed to make over 60 different costumes plus a load of costume props.  

Good thing I had until February……… be continued……..