Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

2012 Tony Awards: Best Costume Design for a Musical

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


Eiko Ishioka

Gregg Barnes

Martin Pakledinaz


Now, I know what you’re thinking, but Tony voters have proven again and again that when it comes to musicals, the more outlandish or off-beat the costumes, the better. Recent past winners include Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Shrek the Musical, and Grey Gardens. So if voters are at all predictable, they’ll be ticking off The Hottest Mess to Ever Hit Broadway. Ever. for this category. While Julie Taymor may have been blacklisted from Broadway for a spell for her association with Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, no one’s going to fault Eiko Ishioka’s highly imaginative contribution to the Spidey fashion franchise with her highlighter-colored and multi-textured kooky creations. Despite the fact that some of the costumes look plastic-y and cheap, they perfectly fit the comic-book look and feel of the rest of the show. And I still kinda loved them, specifically when all of the “Sinister Six” appear as a stream of color above the black and white comic-city skyline (by far the most brilliant stage picture created in the show). Also, I hate to say it, but it doesn’t hurt that famed Japanese designer Ishioka (she won an Oscar for her work on Bram Stoker’s Dracula) passed away in January, long before nominations were announced. This is a Lifetime Achievement/sympathy vote that’s actually deserved (Ishioka’s only other Tony nom was for M. Butterfly in 1988).

If anyone’s going to steal Spidey’s one shot at Tony glory, though, it’s Gregg Barnes for his gorgeous work on Follies. Spanning generations of chorus girls costumes from 1918 until 1941, Barnes literally created dozens upon dozens of glamorous showgirls costumes with ridiculously intricate details: beaded and feathered headpieces that are as high as the sky and incredible, geometrically shaped bodices that are dripping with sequins and dusting with glitter. Too bad Natasha Katz’s dim lighting design hid these sparkling gems from view for the most part, and with the show long closed, folks might not remember the breadth and beauty of Barnes’s design.

As for the other two nominees — well, they haven’t a shot. Esosa, who’s also a fashion designer (and a Project Runway finalist), clothed the inhabitants of Porgy and Bess‘s Catfish Row in 1920s working-class garb awash in warm, neutral tones. Fitting for the show, sure, but for voters looking for the most sparkle, Esosa’s design fails to awe. Multiple Tony Award-winner Martin Pakledinaz, nominated last year for his fabulous ’30s style for Anything Goes, mostly pleases with his colorful, though slightly generic, flapper fashion for Nice Work If You Can Get It, but when it comes to sequins and feathers, Barnes has the monopoly.

3 comments on “2012 Tony Awards: Best Costume Design for a Musical

  1. A-Ron
    May 30, 2012

    I went to see Mirror Mirror (which was awful) solely for Eiko Ishioka’s costumes… she was a genius.

    • Anne
      June 4, 2012

      I also went to see “Mirror Mirror” just for Tarsem Singh. Good god, what a boring, trite nightmare. How did the same person who directed “The Fall” direct that mess. I left before the end.

    • Julie
      May 30, 2012

      Her only film work that I’ve seen in full is Dracula, but The Cell looks pretty fucking fantastic.

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This entry was posted on May 30, 2012 by in Award Predictions, Broadway, Costume Design, Musical, Oscar-Nominated, Theatre and tagged .




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