Showstoppers! Broadway Costumes Exhibit

As Broadway reopens after 18 months of pandemic shutdown, there is an exhibit on West 42nd Street that highlights the incredible costumes that light up the stage (and screen). Open through September 26, tickets are required (go here for more information and to purchase) but proceeds go to help the talented people in the costume industry whose financial stability has been devastatingly impacted by the shuttering of the entertainment business. Here are my impressions from going a few weeks ago.

For a time-limited exhibition like this, I thought the layout and design was excellent. The exhibit aims to teach the observer about the work and design elements going behind these elaborate costumes, while giving the opportunity to see the details of the costumes up close.

Here you see costumes from the Broadway productions of The Cher Show (Bob Mackie), Side Show (a particularly challenging costume) and Six (which was going to have opening night on the very evening that Broadway was shuttered).

Disney productions are represented here: Aladdin, The Lion King, and Frozen.

Wicked – it’s interesting to see Elphaba’s costume up close and see that it is not a matte black. Adding texture and some subtle color gives the dress depth on the stage.

Costumes from Moulin Rouge, Chicago, and Cursed Child (Draco Malfoy).

Hamilton! I was fortunate to be able to go backstage before pandemic and see some of these costumes up close then. Apparently Lin-Manuel Miranda asked for Alexander Hamilton’s costume to be “the color of money” and after several tries this iconic green silk was confirmed. Being able to make the ensemble’s costumes able to dance in – without looking like stretchy dance clothes -is a particular challenge for most Broadway costumers.

I have also been backstage at Phantom and seen the costumes at close range. For solid black or white costumes like these for the Phantom and Christine, texture and small variations in color are used to keep them from appearing flat from the audience.

Costumes from non-Broadway productions were also highlighted. Here you see costumes from a cruise ship, from the circus, for a Broadway Cares production, from dance, and the iconic costume the Radio City Rockettes wear in the March of the Wooden Soldiers.

The exhibit also highlights the importance of cleaning and caring for costumes, with many from films being preserved since, unlike on Broadway where costumes wear through and are replaced constantly, a film is limited in time and requires fewer repairs or replacement of the costumes.

The exhibit ends on a positive note, with Broadway reopening happening on a rolling basis throughout the fall.If you are able to see the costume exhibit, it may improve your enjoyment of the costumes you see from your seat as you return to a Broadway theatre!

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