Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

2013 Tony Awards Predictions: 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

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1.  KINKY BOOTS
Gregg Barnes

2. RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN’S CINDERELLA
William Ivey Long

3.  PIPPIN
Dominique Lemieux

4. MATILDA THE MUSICAL
Rob Howell

Matilda The Musical boasts costumes by Rob Howell (playing double duty as the set designer). While the majority of the costumes are subtly fine — the children’s gray school uniforms, Miss Honey’s floral dresses and cardigans — there are a couple of standouts. The Wormwoods are delightfully, and flamboyantly, tacky: He, in a green and black plaid suit and white fedora, she in fishnets and skin-tight dresses detailed  with ruffles, fringe and all other forms of garish accents. But the real gem is Miss Trunchbull in her brown military jacket and knee-high socks, with a gigantic bosom that sag to the cinched leather belt at her waist. Howell’s cheeky costumes are perfectly suited to the snarky British import, but they don’t have nearly as much flash as the other nominees.

Naturally, Pippin‘s costumes are a spin on the circus theme. Saucily building upon the basic leotards with armored bustiers, layers of shimmering fringe, bedazzled vests and top hats, each piece pops with color and humor. They’re also smartly streamlined for ease of acrobatic movement: Each iridescent piece clings to the performer as though painted on. Simultaneously eye-catching and efficient, first-time nominee Dominique Lemieux’s designs make for a possible spoiler.

Two shows revolve around footwear, though, so how could this award not, finally, come down to them? One of the biggest thrill of Kinky Boots comes from watching the men slip and fold their slim bodies into the skimpiest of costumer Gregg Barnes’s bedazzled outfits and thigh-high stiletto boots — no, excuse me, two feet of tubular sex. The catwalk finale is a stunner, featuring a candy-colored assortment of the titular heels that in typically outlandish drag queen fashion perfectly match over-the-top themed costumes (Union Jack, Scottish, Victorian, etc.). But the real trick is that Barnes faced the same challenge in creating his walking pieces of art as Charlie does in the musical: How do you make a stiletto heel that can support the weight of a male dancer and not break? Barnes did it, stunningly, and if past wins for cross-dressing musicals (La Cage, Priscilla) are any indication, the two-time Tony winner will take it home. Then again, he won last year for his gorgeous work for Follies, so voters will likely spread the wealth.

The factory workers in Kinky Boots declare that “the most beautiful thing in the world is a shoe” — and if Cinderella isn’t its sister show in that regard, no show is. In addition to that famed glass slipper, William Ivey Long’s lush, technicolor array of costumes rigged for magically quick transformations are stunning. Beautifully detailed in bright hues adorned with feathers, ruffled collars and layers of rustling petticoats, the dresses are every bit Disney princess — that swoon-worthy wedding gown with its satin folds and puffy sleeves — with a dash of winking humor (though I’m still not sure why Victoria Clark dons what can only be described as icicled horns). As outrageously fun as Kinky Boots‘s designs are, Cinderella‘s are classically gorgeous and craftily hiding some magic up their sleeves to boot. This will likely be Cinderella‘s only win, and the sixth for William Ivey Long, who most recently won in 2007 for his ingenious work on Grey Gardens.

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