A New York costume designer returns to Milwaukee to pump up the sparkle in this month's Skylight performance.
Chris March was a contestant on two different seasons of “Project Runway” and has designed clothing for the likes of Meryl Streep and Lady Gaga. His hands have even molded plastic around none other than Beyonce’s waist in order to construct a corset for her 2009 “I Am…” tour. While his family has roots in Milwaukee, March only brought his self-taught design skills back last year when he created costumes for Skylight Music Theatre’s heralded My Fair Lady. This month, he’s returning to create more than 60 costumes for Skylight’s La Cage Aux Folles, a story of a gay couple, one of whom is a drag performer at La Cage aux Folles nightclub. Familial chaos ensues when the couple’s son becomes engaged to a woman whose parents are staunch conservatives who don’t take kindly to flamboyance.
Drama and color are a given, but what other goals do you have for the designs? We decided to make the “venue” where La Cage takes place to be more of a small, fabulous underground club, rather than an upscale showroom. That said, my approach to the costumes had to be rather low-tech, with lots of changing tricks rather than elaborate theater craft. We are setting the show in the late ’70s, and the overall theme is change and metamorphosis, which we hope reflects the attitude of the audience after seeing this show.
The looks will range from drag to showgirl, and then daywear. There must be challenges. There are many quick changes backstage and in front of the audience, hopefully showing them that nothing is as it seems. He will turn into a she, she will turn into a he, and this will turn into that – all in glorious live theater.
Will any sort of fabric dominate the looks? Besides our theme of change and illusion, we of course have the show covered in feathers, feathers and more feathers.
Of course. What about the wigs? I started out as a wig maker and designer so it is just a natural part of it for me. All the fabulous wigs are on our leading “lady” Zaza [played by Ray Jivoff].
Although you’re based in New York, you’ll be in Milwaukee for nearly a month. What’s on the agenda? I don’t get to see much but a glue gun and my pillow at night. I mainly see the warehouse area around the [Third Ward’s Broadway Theatre Center], which is a really cool, hip neighborhood.
Is there such a thing as too many sequins for costumes like these? Too many what? ◆
La Cage Aux Folles
Nov. 18-Dec. 23, Cabot Theatre, Broadway Theatre Center, skylightmusictheatre.org.