Towards the end of the fall trimester came preparations for this year’s Winter Musical, Mamma Mia! While the actors were auditioning for their roles before Thanksgiving Break, the costume design crew was beginning to plan and organize for the busy winter trimester. They have already laid out many costumes as their busiest weeks approach.
For those who are unfamiliar with costume design, senior costume designer Peter Cheney ’20 gave a brief outline of his crew’s process. Peter explained, “We begin by going through the expansive costume closet and pulling every piece of clothing that we think will fit the cast members and the needs of the play to get an understanding of what we have and what we still need.” The designers then measure the actors and piece together specific outfits for those who participate in the December photoshoot. After Winter break, they fit the rest of the actors and carefully consider how the costumes work for each individual’s comfort level and the cast as a whole. Peter mentioned that they encourage the characters to come back from winter break with pieces of clothing they would be comfortable dancing in. All of the costumes are set two weeks before the show, after which small touches are made often up until opening night. The crew attentively watches the dress rehearsals to ensure that no costume clashes with another and that all actors have the appropriate accessories.
As Peter explained, costumes are vital to the play. It’s a combination of representing the innate aspects of a character’s personality and identity while also incorporating one’s interpretation of which traits to highlight. One of the challenges of this process is visually communicating the importance of the lead actors while making sure everyone else is seen.
After hearing that this years’ production would be Mamma Mia! last Spring, Peter remarked, “I expected this show to be not only my favorite but also the easiest in regards to costumes...but it has proven to be the most difficult.” Since his stress for the prior musicals resulted from his unfamiliarity with the stories and characters, he assumed the roles from Mamma Mia! would be easier to create costumes for because of his knowledge of the plot, characters, and setting. However, he confessed that he and his fellow crew members had an unexpectedly challenging time capturing the musical’s simple yet vague theme of “tropical and beachy.”
As a result of his four years with the costuming crew, Peter remarked that he has gained an appreciation for small details. He also said, “I think that the members of the crew are the unsung heroes of the show because costumes, elements of the set, and lighting enhance the show in so many ways that the audience may take for granted.”
Mamma Mia! is quickly coming together for what will be an outstanding performance in mid-February. Be sure to attend at least one of the three performances February 13-15 at 7:30 PM in the Fireman Center for the Performing Arts to witness how the Tabor musical’s cast and crew weave together the many elements of a theater production into one impressive show.
The show goes up February 13, 14 and 15 at 7:30 PM in the Fireman Center for Performing Arts. The show is free and open to the public.