Costuming the cast of 'The Producers'

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Putnam - posted Mon., Aug. 8, 2011
Jason Musko as Roger Debris and Nicolas Magrey as Carmen Ghia in 'The Producers' at Bradley. Photos by D. Coffey.
Jason Musko as Roger Debris and Nicolas Magrey as Carmen Ghia in 'The Producers' at Bradley. Photos by D. Coffey.

If clothes make the man (or woman), then Claudette White makes the characters of “The Producers” come alive with style.

White is the costume designer for the latest Bradley Theater musical production that features 26 actors and actresses playing a variety of roles. From SS Army officers to an army of accountants, from little old ladies to sexy showgirls, White has had to work wonders to outfit the large and diverse cast of characters. With her eye for color, her sewing talent, and her ability to pick out clothes from a haphazard collection housed in the theater's basement, she has put pop and sizzle into an already colorful storyline.

“I just have this sense of what will work well,” she said.

But make no mistake about it. White studies the script, too. She has to understand the character - and the actor - in order to make sure the clothes fit the temperaments of each. She memorizes the sets and their colors. She has to take into account the colors of the costumes on all the actors on stage. And she has to know what the director is talking about when he or she gives directions during rehearsals.

“When he says, ‘Sabu enters from the left wearing a loincloth,’ I have to know what he's talking about,” she said. And the costumes have to work for the actors. “They put these costumes on and become their characters,” she said. It's her job to make them feel comfortable.

“I sit back and watch and take notes,” she said. “You want things to pop off.”

The Bradley purchased costumes from a production company in Massachusetts for this play. The lot came with all the Nazi and prisoner uniforms they needed for the second half. White had to nip and tuck those, but she still had to create some things from scratch.
She created what she calls the Chrysler Building dress for the character of Roger DeBris. There is a plaid jacket she picked out for a choreographer that she thinks will work “hideously well.” More old ladies than you can shake a stick at appear on stage, and all of them are appointed in suitably old-fashioned dresses. White didn't have to make all the costumes, but the process amounted to more than the simple nip and tuck she thought it would be.

White would walk out of the Bradley with an armload of clothes to work with at a time. She and theater member Kathy Morin fixed and fitted the outfits until they were right. Then Morin brought home another armload.

“You develop a character wearing this stuff,” she said. “The cast members had this sense of urgency.”

Her most challenging outfit was the dress she had to construct for Jason Musko, who plays Roger DeBris. “I had to construct an undergarment for him,” she said. And it was just a few days before opening night that she found the perfect fabric for Sabu's loincloth.

But her favorite costumes were for Carmen Ghia. Carmen, the “common-law assistant” to DeBris, struts across the stage in high heels, wearing a black top with glitter all over it. “Nicolas Magrey becomes Carmen Ghia in those clothes,” she said.

“The Producers” continues its run at Bradley on Aug. 12, 13, 19 and 20 at 7 p.m., and Aug. 14 and 21 at 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.thebradleyplayhouse.org.


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