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Stage West's costumes take centre stage with latest production

Theatre's 'Step by Step' is on until Feb. 4

Stage West’s Step by Step is on until Feb. 4. // Submitted

Sometimes the behind-the-scenes team of productions steal the show when it comes to theatre and that’s the case with Stage West’s latest, Step By Step: The Evolution of the Greatest Boy Bands.

On until Feb. 4, the show is an entertaining stroll through the sights and sounds of memory lane dating back to the 60s when women were left screaming and fainting at the mere sight of the Beatles. Since then, the so-called boy band has been spawning fans all over the world.

Stage West’s costume designer Leslie Robson-Greene, assistant costume designer Jen Gareau, and the team behind the costume design of the theatre’s latest play a pivotal role in recreating music history from the Beatles and the Bee Gees to the likes of New Kids on the Block, NSYNC, and the Backstreet Boys.

When Gareau designs a show, the ideas come from a variety of sources, including research of a particular period, current fashion, movies, and paintings.

In some cases, even conversation.

“Or just simply reading the script and visualizing it,” she adds.

It’s similar for Robson-Greene.

“Anywhere and everywhere! If I’m doing a scripted piece, the script is the single most evocative piece of the puzzle,” Robson-Greene explains, adding collaboration with the directors and other designers is integral.

“Good costume designs should visually introduce the characters to the audience while creating a welcoming feeling that invite the audience to get involved with the show and characters.”

The Beach Boys look

The team behind the look

Creating costumes from a show includes three groups of people covering the conceptualization, creation and performance/maintenance, often including a costume designer, a wig designer, and a makeup designer.

There is often a head of wardrobe that works with the team to bring designs to life. Almost every show has a group of stitchers that ensures the costumes fit the performers. There are also dressers who among other tasks are charged with helping actors getting ready for each performance, often with multiple quick changes in costumes, wigs or makeup.

Each part of the process comes with its own challenges and rewards, Robson-Greene explains.

“Coming up with the perfect idea or look for a particular costume, constructing or sourcing that perfect piece that perfectly captures that idea,” she adds.

The Duran Duran look

The most rewarding part

Generally, Robson-Greene’s favourite costumes move the story forward while creating a strong visual image, which in the case of Step by Step was for much of the show was from a previous decade.

“I think the Beach Boys, Duran Duran and the One Direction/Jonas Brothers were the most successful (costumes from this production.)”

Gareau’s favourite costumers for Step by Step stemmed more so from the group itself.

“The Jonas Brothers, just because they look so damn sharp,” she says, adding the Bee Gees as well.

“And what we called the Beach Blanket Boys, who were the dancers toward the end of the Beach Boys set.”

While many of the costumes end of in stock, resold, or donated, some Stage West actors have even purchased their own pieces.

For both costume designers, there’s nothing like seeing their ideas come to life on stage.

“Working with the actors to help stimulate their creativity in brining that moment alive for the audience,” Robson-Green says.

“The most fun for me is generating the ideas and then seeing them realized on stage,” Gareau adds.

The Bay City Rollers look

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