Thursday, 6 December 2012

Behind the scenes with 'The Producers': The Costumes

Louisa Stark interviews Mrs Whitaker, who designed and organised the costumes for this year's PGS Production, 'The Producers'.

Louisa: Where did you get your inspiration from? Did you start with the film or did you look at the script?

Mrs W: I did have a copy of the script, but I started with the film and watched it two or three times. But then also I put 'The Producers' on to Google and clicked on Images and it gave me various different people that had done it so that I could see the different types of costumes. There was Wrexford Musical Society that did it and I was able to watch the on You Tube and see their costumes on there.

Louisa: Was it easy to source all of the costumes? Or did you have to make some of them?

Blue dress and blue suit
Mrs W: There were five different ways I got the costumes. One was to make them, one was to hire, we used the internet, charity shops and PGS wardrobe. I made Ula's blue dress because in the film there is a connection between Leo Bloom's security blanket and Ula's dress, which have to be the same colour, because, in effect, she replaces the blue blanket once they form a relationship. So I was really keen that it was the same blue. So I made her blue dress over the summer and I came back in September and it didn't fit (as I didn't have her there to fit it to) so I altered it to fit her and in the end everything was fine. Some of the other teachers made Bavarian peasant blouses and the little aprons with the embroidery designs on, Ms Rickard made those.

Louisa: Did you have a favourite costume?

Mrs W: I think it's probably the blue dress or Leo Bloom's blue suit which was a Paul Smith suit which I found in a charity shop, a beautiful suit and it was on a tailor's dummy. I went in and it was on there with a blue shirt and a blue tie and I just looked at it and thought "That's Leo Bloom", the complete unit outfit was him and I toyed for ages with whether to buy it or not because, although it was half price, it was still relatively expensive and I didn't know whether it would fit him or not, but I took the risk. He tried it on and became Leo Bloom; it was amazing, he loved it. Beautiful suit. Gorgeous.

Louisa: Were there any costume dramas on the night?

Nazis and Pretzels
Mrs W: Not really. I don't think we had any issues. The lederhosen button came off, from Franz, and we had to tie it on with a bit of ribbon around the back to fit him and his strap kept coming down, but no major issues really. We'd got it all sorted out before we got to the Kings', there were only one or two things to do like broken zips or buttons coming off.

Louisa: Did you speak with the people doing the make-up or the set to get a continuity with the look of it?

Mrs W: I went to a lot of rehearsals in school, so that I had a good idea from the beginning. I spoke to Mr McCrohon and Mrs Filho; they gave me a lot of information and of course Emily Bustard, who was brilliant; she helped me an awful lot.

Louisa: How important do you think costume is to the production?

Mrs W: I think it helps them get into character. When you are doing it in your school uniform in the DRT, it's not really real, but it was such excitement when they all got to wear their costumes for the first time; you can see that the character really starts to come out and I think that it helps them. It was an awful lot of work; there were 207 costumes in the end: 22 stormtroopers and 24 convicts (boys and girls). There were 23 opening-nighters. we had girls in lovely evening gowns and stoles, boys in tuxedos, which we had to hire, and it all had to be 1950s style; some of the girls didn't have court shoes and were saying "Well we've got wedge shoes" and we're saying "No, no, no, that's not fifties", so it's that sort of attention that you need to pay to detail.

Louisa: What happens to the costumes after the production is over?

Mrs W: At the moment they are all on the Gatehouse floor. You have probably been in there and seen them. However, we're in the process of sorting them into piles. I'm going to wash all the shirts; there are some beautiful vintage dresses in PGS Wardrobe which I want to have dry-cleaned and repaired and mended because they really are lovely. And I found quite a few pieces in charity shops, like a black, velvet cape, which is beautiful, so we are still in the process of sorting it all out. I've got a swastika armband pile, a wig pile, a wash pile, and it's all going back on to rails and to PGS Wardrobe.

Louisa: If people want to get involved in helping with costumes for future productions, how can they do that?

An extraordinary range of costumes
Mrs W: That would be brilliant. Come and see me and we'll perhaps get a team together. We had costume dressers. Three Year 11 girls from my tutor group volunteered to help dress people, because, if you can appreciate, Ulla had six dresses to get changed into and she literally came off stage and we were holding up her next costume, with ten seconds to get into the entire thing. So, yes, absolutely anyone who wants to help, that would be brilliant if they come along to see me.

Louisa: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Mrs W: One thing I would like to emphasise is the charity aspect of it. Quite a large part of the budget was used to buy things from charity shops and you can get some really lovely items, although it involves a lot of searching.I want to get the message across that a lot of the money goes to charity rather than on buying stuff brand new.

Louisa: Thank you very much. The costumes were absolutely wonderful.

Mrs W: Thank you. I really enjoyed it.

See also Ellie Burr-Lonnen's review of The Producers.

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