Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

2011 Tony Awards: Best Costume Design of a Musical

Note: My personal rankings are listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite, while predictions for the actual winners will be in orange.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL

1. The Book of Mormon

2. Anything Goes

3. Priscilla Queen of the Desert

4. How to Succeed in Business without Really trying

Missing: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Sure, Tony voters are just as conservative as Oscar voters, but that’s not the reason Priscilla Queen of the Desert doesn’t top my list. Priscilla, of course, is not an original story — it’s based on the 1994 film The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert — and so, quite naturally, the characters and plot are familiar to us. But that’s not the only thing you’ll recognize in the stage show — the sassy, glittery, super-shiny, neon, hilariously over-the-top drag couture are by the same team who designed the film’s Oscar-winning costumes: Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner. I’m not even going to attempt to understand why certain shows/designs are eligible for Tonys and others aren’t (the rules and regulations of Tony eligibility are so vague that they may as well not even exist), and far be it for me to rain on all over Priscilla‘s fabulousness (because she is fabulous), but so much of this costume design is taken right out of the film (flip-flop dress and all!) that I can’t quite understand how this a “mostly” original design.

When I knocked Priscilla‘s ranking down a couple pegs because of this, I realized that there’s only one nominated design nominated from an entirely new show. A single designer had the additional challenge — and creative freedom — of imagining an completely original design. Ann Roth’s contribution to The Book of Mormon is both well researched and intensely funny: Ugandans create play costumes out of found objects (feed-bag bonnets and baby-carriage-wheel halos); sparkly, stretchy, candy-apple-red devils infiltrate a cracked-out nightmare sequence and a cartoonish Jesus, resembling rocker Sebastian Bach, boasts flowing blonde locks and a robe piped with LED lights. Roth has no shot at winning, of course  — her designs are nowhere near as dramatic as Priscilla‘s, nor as, well, period as Anything Goes — but she more than deserves recognition for how perfectly her costumes reflect the riotous “Fuck You, God” attitude of Mormon.

Anything Goes is the safest bet here. It’s not the over-the-top camp of Priscilla, the cheeky cartoonishness of Mormon or Catherine Zuber’s competent, dancer-friendly ’60s attire of How to Succeed — instead, the Cole Porter tuner was stylishly brought to fabulous ’30s life by Martin Pakledinaz with empire-waist sailor trousers, peep-toed platforms, creamy mid-calf-length skirts and winking, sequined-flamed tap numbers for “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.” Seamlessly elegant, Pakledinaz brought class and cleverness to the classic comedy.

All that being said, had I the choice and the opportunity, I’d cast my vote for Emily Rebholz’s contemporary-historic mash-up of early 1900s and early 2000s trends in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. As with the rest of the show’s design, her hip costumes were irreverent, postmodern perfection.

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This entry was posted on May 25, 2011 by in Award Predictions, Broadway, Costume Design, Musical, Theatre, Tony Awards.

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