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.

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