Dressing the Music Man

Making The Music Man requires reproducing a moment in time. In 1912 Howard Taft was president, the 47th and 48th star was added to the flag, and the mighty titanic made its first and last voyage. Crossword puzzles weren’t invented yet, 95% of births took place at home and the average worker made between $200 and $400 per year. Women wouldn’t vote for another eight years.

Many women in America still made their own clothes. Inspired by the new empire waistline, fuller skirts and beautiful draping with soft, floaty fabrics was becoming the norm. Hats with lavish brims were suspended like magic and smothered in ribbon and plumage.

Many men were still wearing 2 piece suits and boater hats (straw) as daily day wear, and knickers for sporting events were not uncommon.

Insights like these go a long way in informing costuming for a musical stage production and Angie Haynes, lead stylist for the Sun Valley production was well aware of the significance of the time.

“I was told by an art teacher that: ‘in order to paint like a master you must know the past, ALL the basics.’ Fashion reinvents itself all the time. For me,” she continues, “ it is not difficult to take something new and turn the clock back.  A collar, gloves, shoes or even the way every day clothes are worn can make a person feel different.”

Angie’s creations for The Music Man revive the time and offer the young actors a starting point for who they become on stage.
“If the students are comfortable,” notes Angie, “they then can feel transformed by their wardrobe.”

But transforming nearly 90 young performers into ladies and gentlemen (and youngsters) from early 20th century middle America takes planning, time and ultimately a budget. But with limited funds, styling period costumes requires dedicated support. Susan Long and Susan DiBona rounded out the team to ensure the show opened with a flourish.

After volunteering over the years in every way for the theater department, DiBona was intrigued by the chance to do something new: “ I think the biggest challenge in the costume department is the sheer amount of work that it takes to bring the “look” to fruition,” she says. “Time consuming sewing, fittings, shopping and ideas to make the entire cast appear realistic for the time period.”

With three daughters (Ashley, who has graduated, Jenna, and Jamie) participating in theater over the years DiBona is pleased to continue to support their efforts. “Working side by side with other parents who only want the best for the kids and to celebrate all their hard work is such an amazing and satisfying feeling.”

Long agrees: “It’s wonderful to see it move from the beginning through the rough spots to when it finally becomes a wonderful production. The students enjoy the process.”

The process is a long one. Taking inventory of what is already in the costume room is followed by trips to Goodwill, research online, and requests for parents’ help in finding the right pieces.

“A couple moms found great dresses for the students playing kids on OldNavy.com,” notes Long. “They were the perfect style and Angie augmented many of them with lace, bows, and ribbon to make them look authentic.”

All of this is truly time consuming and often the process is revisited and revised along the way.

“I can honestly say more than a few hours where put in but with every bit of time spent it is an opportunity to learn,” says Haynes. “This year I learned that glitter glue and I do not
belong in the same room.”

But she and foam board do — with amazing results. All three costumers agree that Angie’s shining accomplishment was the ladies hats worn by the Mayors wife Eulalie and her ladies in waiting.

“My favorite costume piece is by far the gorgeous ladies’ hats made by the talented Angela,” says DiBona. “The costume department works within a tight budget. The hats alone would have been extremely expensive (if purchased). Angela came up with the idea of using foam board from the dollar store, beautiful ribbons, pastel materials and silk flowers and . . .Voila – hats that are a showstopper! At the budget friendly price of $4 per hat.”

With just a few weeks until dress rehearsal, final details on some costumes were still being finished. Those last days can be a bit anxiety producing according to Long:

“It can be overwhelming to be certain that everyone has what they need when they need it. Organizing is one thing, but I have to say that Angie really does an incredible job of taking Liz Hazlett’s ideas and making them reality. I am grateful for her creativity.”

Once the costumes are finalized, labeling and cataloging each piece is completed in time for the first dress rehearsal. Then it’s repeating the process after each performance to ensure that the costumes do not get lost (or taken home) and are in good order.

It’s a continuous effort until the closing curtain call; and one that all three costumers hope to repeat in the future.

“I am truly grateful for the hours spent by parents and adults helping to bring this production to life this year,” says Haynes. “And it is an honor and privilege to work with a director who brings confidence, music, and the love of theater to my kids (Anna and Charlie).”

As is Long, whose daughters Vivian and Kendra were able to perform together. “Seeing my kids up there with everyone else is really fun and a little emotional because they all work really hard and then. . .there it is on the stage.”

For DiBona, who looks forward to seeing her two daughters through their last years at Penn Delco and the theater, it’s a cycle that continues to benefit and enrich creativity: “For me personally, it has been exciting to watch the students grow and mature in their characters over the years. With each graduation another talented group rises up. As they say in the “business”: the show must go on!”