Darlings, I’m sorry I didn’t get to my recap on friday the way I normally do. Due to a series of unforeseen and very nearly surreal circumstances, I didn’t get to sit down and watch the episode myself until… well… this morning.
The episode begins with Austin doing Kenley’s hair as they gossip about the latest elimination. Pretty much everyone seems to have been a bit thrown by the judges sending Rami packing. In general terms, I do agree with them that it’s sobering. In specific terms… yeah, that outfit was heinous on levels it doesn’t bear to contemplate. As much as I was hoping Rami would make it to the finale, I would have been a bit shocked if it had gone any other way. Still, Jerell is happy because this means one of his strongest competitors is gone and he’s that much closer to winning… he thinks. Honestly, while he’s got his opportunity and he might surprise the heck out of me, I don’t see him being the big winner. Then again, he could prove me wrong. It’s happened before. Gretchen did beat Mondo in their season, where I would have dumped her and her designs about halfway through the competition.
But I digress. Let’s get back to this episode, shall we?
The designers are brought to a theater where a Broadway revival of Godspell is preparing to open. Awesome! I love that show. I may not be wild about musical theater in general, and I’m actually an atheist, but I love that show for some reason. Maybe it’s the joyful, gypsy, flower child spirit of it all. It’s kind of the ultimate hippie musical, after all, and I am a child of the sixties.
Composer Steven Schwartz, one of the actresses in the revival, and the director are brought out to meet the designers. Their brief? Create a costume for this fabulous lady to wear in the show. The winner will have his or her design used in the play and get a biography in the Playbill. This is a pretty big deal. Kenley and her huge scarf hiding(!) her curlers begin sending copies of that Playbill to all her friends. Austin needs his smelling salts. Kara just swallowed her entire head. Her emotional roller coaster this week leaves me in desperate need of Dramamine.
They’re told the character is a wealthy woman who isn’t afraid to take wealth from others and likes to show it off. The designers need to come up with an outfit composed of separates that can be pulled out of a box onstage for the actress to put on in front of the audience. That’s one of the things I really do love about Godspell: that playing dress up kind of attitude, watching the various apostles grab seemingly random items of clothing to express their characters.
So, sketching in the theater followed by shopping at MOOD, and then it’s back to the workroom to create theater magic.
Right away you can tell that a lot of these people have never designed for theater and have never been in a musical themselves. Godspell includes a lot of dancing and a lot of jumping around and a lot of sitting on the floor. It’s a very physical show. The actors need plenty of room to move… and half the room seems to be making pencil skirts. In fact, when Mila was talking about possibly making more of a dirndl skirt, Joanna Coles (who was once in an amateur production of Godspell herself!) tells her that a pencil skirt would look more powerful.
Okay, I get it. Pencil skirts are power suits for women… but you can’t move in them the way you would in something more loose fitting. And pencil skirts are too uptight for this hippie, gypsy, little kid dress up kind of theater. This is a show for twirly skirts, hot pants, baggy jams, and other things you can move in.
Austin has designed for theater productions before, and he has such a very theatrical bent in general that I expect him to come up with a great idea and take it to eleven. He does not disappoint. He bases his look on a gold and silver brocade with a huge, gaudy floral motif and images of Marie Antoinette. He puts together a black, knee length catsuit with a plunging neckline. This is a great basic piece that can be worn until the big box of pretty things is revealed, whereupon she can put on the full brocade skirt over a tulle petticoat and add the black fur stole that actually has armholes in it. She can slide it on to about elbow height where it will sit comfortably, but adjust itself when she needs to move her arms. Fabulous. Effortless. Practical. And he just kind of sits down and does it.
On the other end of the emotional/practicality scale is Kara. She is melting like the Wicked Witch of the West in a steambath. She’s come up with a rather pedestrian – albeit sort of cute – sleeveless top in navy with a stripe of very small white… I’m not certain whether they’re meant to be flowers or just little open circles. Either way, it’s a fabric that’s not going to read particularly well from the back row, and doesn’t look at all rich or extravagant up close and personal. She’s putting this top over a narrow lipstick red maxi skirt that appears to be some sort of jersey. Jersey is great for movement, and I know it’s one of Kara’s signatures, but few things in life read less rich or less powerful than a jersey maxi skirt.
Joanna suggests it might look a tiny bit less dowdy and pathetic if it were shorter. She goes on to tell Kara she needs to push herself harder. We then get a tearful interview from Kara about how very hard she’s pushed herself and yet they ask more of her. I long to hand her a Valium. Then again, I wanted to do that when she and Kenley were doing an interpretive dance of Mein Kampf in delight at the fabrics they’d chosen.
Jerell is (surprise, surprise! ) playing with texture. It could work out well, but what I’m seeing at this point looks a little fiddly and subtle to read well onstage. At least he did pick a fabric that will stretch a bit, so he understands the character has to be able to move in it.
Mila isn’t doing colorblocking for once… but again, she needs to understand that her understated style isn’t going to do for (a) theater, (b) Broadway in particular, or (c) an OTT show like Godspell in really particular. She’s got this terribly subtle gold on cream sheer stripe, which she’s using for a blouse. But she’s covering it with a white faux fur short jacket and pairing it with a skirt in a bright yellow and lime green lightning bolt print. The print is a great idea, except that those two bright colors side by side kind of water each other down. That print needed a greater contrast. From the stage it will just look kind of ‘greenery-yallery’ and confusing. Kara interviews that Mila isn’t even using real fur, so she’s done for. Again, you can tell Kara hasn’t done theater design. Anyone who has can tell you categorically that nothing looks more fake on stage than real fur and real flowers.
Michael also does not know theater design, clearly, but at least does get extravagance. He’s got a full acid green skirt with kind of a bubble underlayer topped with a halter top in a bright floral print on a gold background. It’s not Godspell by any means, but at least it does read as having some of the spirit. I figure unless Mira and Kara pull Faberge eggs out of their sad piles of cloth, Michael is at least going to make it to the next round.
Mondo is playing with a dark brocade and the idea that the character has taken her father’s old smoking jacket and made it over into something fabulous for herself. I love the way he thinks these things through. He’s got a big pile of prints on his table, but he seems unhappy with the smoking jacket and unconvinced by his other fabrics. Through the screen I will him to see the amazing potential in what he has before him.
In the end, he does some reverse psychology on himself. He tells himself he sucks, his fabrics are awful, and there’s no way he can do this. It works. He begins tearing up the workroom and starts feeling the magic. Go Mondo!
Kenley has chosen a brocade of cream and bright red. She’s making a jacket with an extravagant peplum and a white feather collar out of it. This could be kind of brilliant. And then she pulls out her silky print of aqua, pink, yellow and red murky flowers on a cream background. She’s making a pencil skirt out of that. Again with the pencil skirts! If I was going to make that jacket (and it’s got real possibilities), I would pair it with some sort of trouser – maybe even shorts – for this show. And while I applaud her decision to play with pattern mixing, because that’s a natural for Godspell… she just doesn’t have Mondo’s genius with that technique. Her pairing looks chaotic, but not in a good way. They don’t flow together well.
So we come to the show and here’s how it fell out.
The guest judge this week is not the actress who will wear the outfit, nor the director of the play, nor even Steven Schwartz. No, it’s Sutton Foster, Broadway actress who starred in a revival of Anything Goes. Okay. I would have wanted someone connected with the actual show the costume is going to be used in to do the judging, but at least it’s someone who understands how clothes need to move in musical theater.
The first look up is Michael’s. It’s pretty much as described, except there’s a feather and stiff ribbon hat that’s worn on one side of the model’s head, and since the shoes he picked were too large for her feet, he’s added acid green ghillie laces to them. As I said before, it’s a kind of cool outfit, but it’s not theater. Still, it’s polished and would look great at the right party… minus the hat which is clearly a runway-only kind of accessory.
Next is Kenley’s power suit. Again, the feathers and the extravagant peplum are great ideas, but that skirt print is too buttoned up and the pencil skirt won’t move the way someone in a production of Godspell needs to, and there’s a complete throwaway of a white on white dotted shell blouse. She tried, but Kenley just doesn’t do gypsy, flower child, or Broadway dancer well at all. She’s convinced it looks very ‘East Village.’
Austin’s Marie Antoinette hippie is up next, and really, I have to say he nailed it. The skirt features pannier-like poufs on the sides and a pair of brocade shoulder straps. He, too, has made a hat out of the leftover fur from the stole and a puffy brocade bow. Hints of gold netting peek out under the hem of the skirt. It’s outrageous and extravagant, but you can absolutely move in it. This is something that can roll on the floor, slide down a bannister, and twirl magnificently with a dancer. In short, it’s a costume for a Broadway revival of Godspell.
Somehow Jerell seems to have missed the brief and created a costume for a fantasy dance sequence in a Broadway musical of Mildred Pierce. The whole thing is grey and black and kind of oddly lumpy. It reads more ‘secretary’ than ‘flower child’ to me. There’s a bulky, dull silver jacket with a huge bib of black lace down the center, some black braid trim at the awkward neckline and very bulky waistline, as well as cuffs of black and silver brocade with narrow black lace ruffles and some odd, metallic… feathery things threatening to engulf the model’s elbows. This is worn over a pewter colored knee-length circle skirt that’s trying and somehow failing to have a handkerchief hem. It’s lumpy, it’s dumpy, it’s dismal, and it sure as shootin’ ain’t Godspell. This is just sad.
With Kara’s effort, we go from surreally bad to just plain bad. There’s the navy blouse, and the red jersey pencil skirt, which are bad enough on their own. But wait! There’s more! There’s a fur stole! But wait! There’s still more! She’s tied a freaking huge silver bow around the waist over the stole! This is… wow. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I hope I don’t again. Just… no. When the model turns around to go back up the runway, you can see the painfully wonky construction of the slit in the back. It’s going every which way there is.
After those two sartorial farts, we finally get to see the other designer who gets the vibe of the show. Mondo’s reworked smoking jacket is nothing short of brilliant. It’s a midnight blue brocade trimmed now in wide gold and black striped brocade strips down the front and on the cuffs of the three-quarters sleeves. The hems of the cuffs and the shoulders are both trimmed with feathers that have a sort of tiger stripe going on in them. It’s pure fantasy, glorious over the top extravagance, and delicious Boho hippieness all at once. This is worn over a maxi dress of a sort of swirly, almost woodgrainy print in yellow and orange and dark teal chiffon with a gold metallic thread going through it. This is layered over a couple other layers of chiffon in other prints to make a fabulously floaty unstructured dress that will move gorgeously on stage. There’s a fairly high slit in front that will allow unfettered leg movement, too. And when the model turns around, we see the belt of the jacket (again in the black and gold striped brocade) trailing behind her like a little train. It’s the sort of detail that adds a touch of whimsical opulence, but could easily be moved out of the way of any dance steps. I don’t know if Mondo has ever designed for theater before, but he’s definitely got an eye for it. And in many ways, Godspell is the show he was born to design for.
Mila’s design is next, and hoo boy! This is not a design I predict she’ll be putting in a lot of portfolios anytime soon. Mila does not do extravagant. She does not do gypsy. She does not do flower child. She’s a mod to the very marrow of her bones, and even though mods and flower children were part of the same era, they just don’t mix. You can’t even make an emulsion. When you try, you get something like… well… this. There’s the gold and nude blouse worn under an elbow-length sleeved white fur jacket. There’s a tight yet shapeless wrapish skirt that goes to the knee on one side and midway up the thigh on the other. There’s some kind of black belt at the hips. It’s all kind of sad and painful to watch with an overweaning air of cheapness about it. What a sad way to end the show.
Jerell is called forward. He’s safe. Considering what he wrought, I think that’s more of a reflection on how bad some of the designs up there were rather than on anything positive about his. Because frankly, what he did was every bit as bad as some of the fugly that was going on last week.
Angela loves the laces on Michael’s shoes. Geraldine wishes he’d gone further. Isaac praises the combination of fabrics… but they all agree that while it’s a pretty outfit, it isn’t Godspell material. I agree with all of them.
Isaac tells Kenley her girl doesn’t live in the East Village, but in a doorway in the East Village. Geraldine thinks the beautiful cut of the coat is getting lost in all the warring details around it. Sutton Foster agrees, she thinks that it would look muddled onstage. Angela thinks Kenley got the eccentric part, but not the rich bit. Seriously? I don’t love Kenley’s look. I don’t think it would work onstage… but I do think it was better than Jerell’s by a country mile and change.
Austin tells the judges that his vision was a woman so decadent that when told her people were starving she would reply “let them wear Austin Scarlett!” Oh Austin, how I love thee! All three women on the panel line up to gush as hard as I do. Isaac says he loves the look but that it almost kinda in a certain light borders on too young. After all, he says, a woman who wants to wear Austin Starlet has to have money and be established… which is apparently his way of saying he loves it. I scratch my head. Austin corrects the pronunciation (and by extension, spelling) of his name. So in the end it turns out the much anticipated cat fight between Austin and Isaac is more of a bit of weird but mostly gentle ribbing.
Mila explains she was going for a more Rodeo Drive, west coast sort of feel. I’ve been to Rodeo Drive. Nobody there looks that sad and frumpy. Isaac says he likes the parts individually, but not together. I immediately make an appointment for him with a good eye doctor. Sutton Foster says it kind of borders on ‘rich party girl’ but then sheepishly adds that it also borders on ‘someone who might walk the streets.’ I think that actually sums it up pretty darn well.
Isaac describes Mondo’s look as ‘so sexy, in a crazy kind of passive-aggressive way.’ The judges ask to see the look without the jacket, and they are wowed by the low back and layering of fabrics in the dress. Geraldine says that he probably needs to work just a little on the length, and indeed, the dress is pooling a little behind the feet. Still, it’s chiffon. It moves on every breeze. And if the director felt it needed an inch off the bottom, I don’t think it would hurt the look at all.
Angela loves the color of Kara’s skirt. On the other hand, she hates that huge silver bow. Isaac says this is the best thing Kara has done in the competition, Faint praise, faint praise, damn, damn, damn! All in all, the judges seem to feel that with a little more work, there’s a design lurking here. You know, I’ve seen a lot of designs on this show that really would be wonderful with a tweak here and a touch there. This is not one of them. It’s just sad.
And the winner is…
I thought he and Austin did the only viable musical theater designs, and I would have been contented either way, I have to say. Both my boys did me proud.
The judges let Austin know it was a very close decision.
On the bottom, unsurprisingly, it comes down to Mila and Kara who both laid massive, massive eggs this week that did not turn out to be faberge.
Kara and her painfully large silver bow are sent packing. No, I’m not surprised. Her outfit was bad theater, and bad not-theater, too. The fact that more than one of the judges agreed with Isaac that this was her best showing and they still hated it was a clear indication that it was past time for her to go.
Next week the remaining designers will head to the UN and their challenge will have something to do with that, I guess. The highlight I’m waiting for? Isaac saying “I get communism from this dress.” Will he wind up looking more like Marx, Lenin, or Trotsky? Mao, perchance? Tune in on thursday to find out!