|Dress for Casa Rosada Balcony Scene|
And so I was excited when I learned Asolo Repertory Theatre was kicking off its 2017-2018 season with the blockbuster musical. It should come as no surprise that I was front and center for the Costume Designer Brunch at which rapt theatergoers got a sneak peek at some of Evita's wardrobe for the show.
Brian Hemesath returned to Asolo Rep to create the costumes for "Evita" after designing the costumes for last season's production of "Guys and Dolls." He joined us via Skype as he was dressing Chance the Rapper later that day for "Sesame Street." (Hemesath has won two Emmys for his work as head of the "human" department of the show.) Also on hand were David Covach and Laine Marr from the costume shop. Hemesworth heaped substantial praise on them for making his sometimes outrageous ideas work.
"The costumes have to do a lot of work," Hemesath said. They do, after all, have to reflect Eva's journey from a girl of 15 to one of the most famous people in the world.
A lot of work translated into a lot of costume changes in the show. The most amount of time actress Ana Isabelle has to get out of one outfit and into the next is two minutes. Some of the changes happen onstage, in full view of the audience. Some serious rigging was required.
Perhaps the craziest transformation takes place during Evita's "Rainbow Tour" of Spain, Italy and France. During this one number, she wears three different outfits. The concept seems nearly impossible to execute. This is where Laine Marr came in. She laughed as she said it took about six weeks to figure out the logistics for the design. With all the rigging, the outfit weighs in at approximately 10 pounds at the outset of the number.
|David Covach and Laine Marr|
As Evita "travels" from Spain to Italy, the skirt comes off with a quick spin and her outfit becomes a long black dress--and veil--appropriate for a meeting with the Pope.
|Drawings for Rainbow Tour costumes|
And what would a chat about Evita's costumes be without a discussion of the Casa Rosada balcony scene dress (shown above)? Hemesath's original idea was for Evita's skirt to be six feet in diameter. When the team saw the narrow 20 step staircase that Isabelle has to negotiate, they realized that idea wouldn't work. The dress' impact instead is made by what Hemesworth called its disco ball quality. (We were cautioned not to get too near or we would find glitter on our persons for days. There's a reason it's been nicknamed the "Big Bad Silver Dress.")
The upshot is that the jewelry is again gracing the stage in Asolo Rep's production. "I think I can still smell Patti Lupone's sweat on it," Covach said with a laugh.
For more about Asolo Rep's production of the show, click here. The fulsome program includes great interviews with Hemesath and director/choreographer Josh Rhodes and lots of background about Evita and Peronism. There's even audio of the Behind the Scenes session at which dramaturg Paul Adolphsen chatted with Rhodes and music director Sinai Tabak.
"Evita" runs through December 30. If you're anywhere near Sarasota, this is one show you don't want to miss.