Costumes turn you to a Who in a zoo


Photo by Marta Dixon-Kolar

When an actor portrays a character on stage, much of what makes it believable is the actor’s performance. However, even the most skilled actor would have a hard time convincing an audience of their character were they not in an appropriate costume. And for a show like Seussical, which involves Dr. Seuss’s strange animal creations, having the right costume is particularly essential.

The costume process starts during the first production meeting, where the team brainstorms base ideas for each part of the show. Since Seussical has already appeared on the CG stage, each member of the production team agreed that they wanted to stay true to something new instead of recreating last time.

The first step in costume design is figuring out the “vibe” the designers want the characters to have. For the citizens of Whoville, they are going for warm-toned, quirky looking costumes. People in the world of Whoville include Who children, Who grandmas, and a marching band.

The production team also wanted each animal in the jungle of Nool to have an 80s punk look.

“We want a metaphoric look. Costumes that will symbolize animals of the jungle, and accent the wigs Mrs. Whalen makes,” said Mrs. Jacobson, who is in charge of costumes with Mrs. Floor. Mrs. Floor has created costumes for Cary-Grove musicals for over 30 years, since her husband was choir director at CG.

The second step in the process is going to Broadway Costumes in Chicago to get inspired. Mr. Boncosky and Mrs. Floor both have a special relationship with the business, and they are allowed to go look through the costumes instead of looking at pictures. Broadway Costumes actually adjusts and alters each costume to the measurements that are sent in for every cast member that wears a rental costume.

When Mrs. Jacobson first started working with Mrs. Floor, the ensemble would bring their own costumes to get approved, and only those with leading roles would wear rental costumes. As the shows have become more elaborate, more students wear rented costumes. If a student is not wearing a rental costume, it will either come from the costume closet or a classroom.

The costume closet is in the music department, and it is probably the biggest closet you’ve ever seen. Rows upon rows of every color you could imagine. The costumes have accumulated over the past years from donations, Goodwill, Amazon, Ebay, and so forth.

“If I am at a garage sale and see an article of clothing that looks like it could be used in a musical, I will buy it,” Mrs. Jacobson said.

Mrs. Jacobson is also a fashion design teacher at Cary-Grove, and has her students help her out with creating costumes. She assigns them work on “anything they can make. It depends on the student and their ability.” Her favorite part about having her students help out is seeing the look in their eyes when they sit in the audience and see their creations.

Since both Mrs. Jacobson and Mrs. Floor have worked with Mr. Boncosky for so long, they know what he likes or doesn’t like. He trusts them for everything, but is the director and producer so he gets the final say on costume construction and change.

It’s a huge undertaking to costume so many students for a play like Seussical, which has a cast of 93, but Mrs. Jacobson said that it’s not too stressful for her to handle.

“No, not stressed. Tired,” she said. “I will get it done. Stress is worrying about getting it done, whereas tired is making sure it’s done.”