Costumes to Steal the Show

These still-running Broadway shows have all won the Tony for Best Costume Design

There are many aspects of a Broadway production that help make it memorable and successful. The acting, story, and music are perhaps the three most looked at and analyzed categories by Broadway critics; however, one of the less talked about but often-critical component of any successful Broadway show are the costumes. Ranging from minimalistic to elaborate and intricate, costumes play a significant role in creating the magic on stage. How else could other worlds, time periods, and species be effectively conveyed? This month, in honor of Fashion Week in NYC, New York City Monthly highlights four shows still on Broadway that have won the Tony Award for Best Costume Design.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is the most recent winner of Best Costume Design, clinching the award last June at the 2014 Tony Awards. The musical comedy has been an overwhelming success and is currently the talk of the town, particularly for its groundbreaking performance from Jefferson Mays, who plays eight different members of the wealthy D’Yquith family (pronounced dies-kwith), all of whom meet untimely yet creative deaths. While how they die is part of the humor, why they die is clear: they are all in line to inherit the family fortune, which means the ninth in line – Monty Navarro, son of a disinherited member of the family, will stop at nothing in taking out those in his way. Jefferson Mays’ portrayal of eight different characters is a daunting task, requiring ultra-fast costume and personality changes that make for a fun, exciting experience. (Walter Kerr Theatre, 48th St. nr. Broadway)

It’s hard not to see why, last year, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella musical received the Tony for Best Costume Design. Its exquisite 18-pound ball gown is magnificent on stage, and beginning 9/9 Keke Palmer will be joining the cast, making history as the first black actress to play Cinderella on Broadway. Palmer follows in the footsteps of several Cinderellas, including Tony-nominated Laura Osnes and “Call me Maybe” Canadian pop star Carly Rae Jepsen, the latter playing the title role from February to June. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella is a lush production that puts a contemporary spin on the classic tale, while leaving intact all the moments you love and remember. (Broadway Theatre, Broadway nr. 52nd St.)

Just over a decade ago, Wicked took Broadway by storm, telling the previously untold story of The Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good. The musical captured three Tony Awards, including Best Actress (Idina Menzel), Best Scenic Design, and Best Costume Design. With the goal of creating an atmosphere similar to when the Oz books were written (early 20th century), costume designer Susan Hilferty created what she called a “twisted Edwardian” style through more than 200 costumes. Don’t expect to see the costumes from the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie classic; these are more authentic and a load of fun. (Gershwin Theatre, 51st. St. nr. Eighth Ave.)

Lastly, take a trip to the Pride Lands of Africa with the landmark musical journey that has long captured hearts and minds: The Lion King. Winner of six Tony awards including Best Musical and Best Costume Design, the popular production features music by Elton John, Tim Rice, and Hans Zimmer, including catchy songs like “Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata” plus some new ones as well. While one might expect the costumes depicting animals to completely conceal the actors, Director and Costume Designer Julie Taymor has taken an alternate, revolutionary approach: dressing the main actors with stylized animal masks on their heads, thereby leaving emotive facial expressions fully intact. This approach, combined with large animal puppets operated by one or multiple actors, makes The Lion King a one-of-a-kind production that consistently connects with and amazes audiences. (Minskoff Theatre, 45th St. at Broadway)

(Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg)