Sunday, February 19, 2012

Project Runway All-Stars Episode 7: Turn Back, O Man....

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

Give my regards to Broadway.
Remember me to Harold Square.
Tell all the gang at 42nd street that I will soon be there.

And when I do finally get there,
it's really gonna break my heart,
to find out that Godspell's celebrating 40 years.
Boy am I one old fart!

Really?  The fuzzy headed Superman Jesus has been around for 40 years?  Godspell is a little slice of the 1970's when musical theater was all about love and wonderment and the dawning of the age of Aquarius and stuff.  Stephen Schwartz took the Gospel of Matthew and a little bit of Luke in order to create an allegory about how communities come together, form around a charismatic leader and carry on after his departure.

Kind of like Project Runway All-Stars carries on without Tim Gunn, no?

This week's challenge was to design an outfit for the character, Sonia.  She is a rich woman who slowly loses the vestiges of her wealth as she hears the parables of Jesus.  At one point, she breaks into song--"Turn Back, O Man"

Madonna played Sonia, once.

And we found out this week that another notable woman was in Godspell...

"I was actually in Godspell once."
Really?  Because I scoured the Internets and I couldn't find anything.  So we'll just have to use our imagination....

Forswear thy foolish ways, indeed!

Here's the thing.  For decades, Godspell has been staged and re-staged.  The original version costumed Jesus's apostles as clowns.  The clown makeup was an outward manifestation of their community.  Other productions have used special garments or other markings.  This musical has been cast as a group of homeless characters, disco dancers, space travelers, etc... Schwartz's own son recently did a production featuring people on cell phones, with green screen projections and large monitors.  So, basically, the costuming on this one needs to rely on discussion with and direction from Mr. Schwartz.  What we got was a brief explanation that this character was a rich woman who gets "dressed" on stage.  He used a sort of thrift store analogy.  Clearly, he was honing somewhat close to the original production, but definitely wanted to update it.  So this challenge took some observation, listening and sensitivity on the part of each designer.

I have just, one pet peeve this week.

Why did Sutton Foster sit on the judges' panel and not Stephen Schwartz?

In the real world, the producers and directors would have something to say about the costuming for the show.  So we're to believe that Stephen Schwartz left the decision about who would design Sonia's outfit to someone who wasn't even starring in the show?

I know she won a Tony, but come on...

Let's see how our contestants did this week.

We beseech thee, hear us!

Jerell Scott did not repeat his win this week.  His Sonia was sort of a weird, 1940's throwback, but it was enough to be safe.

It certainly looks urban, somewhat sophisticated and rich enough--all of Sonia's traits--but the skirt looks cheap.  The ornamentation seems like an afterthought.  It would have aged the actress beyond the other characters.  So unless this version of Godspell were set in the Retirement Home, this character would stick out.  I'm surprised this was called out as safe, quite frankly.

Michael Costello offered up a bright, cheery outfit.  The color was kind of harsh, but he made it work.

It's fun and flirty, but somehow, just not quite dramatic enough for such an iconic production as Godspell.  For one thing, the character "gets dressed" on stage and then loses her clothes as she accepts Jesus's teachings.  This is a finished outfit and I don't know how the top comes on and off without exposing the actress inappropriately.

Poor Kenley Collins.  She focused on the mismatched, thrift store nature of the outfit.

And yes, it was another impeccably made outfit, but the white fur lining and fascinator with the red and silver brocade made it look like something more suited to the Rockettes Christmas revue and not the 40th anniversary revival of Godspell.

Pulling pots of gold from the air...

Austin Starlet Scarlett came oh, so tantalizingly close.

I could totally visualize this in an updated production of Godspell.  It was urban, with a touch of sexiness.  Just like Sonia.  Can't you just see a young Madonna in this outfit?  The gathers, folds, deep vee neck and even the leggings are so contemporary.  I thought it was a sure winner...until.....

I saw the outfit that Mondo Guerra produced.

This is the sort of outfit that Jerell usually attempts to produce, but just quite can't.  As only Mondo can, he mixed four different prints together.  He used feathers to heighten the drama, but they weren't overdone.   The layers flowed beautifully.  You could instantly visualize the character dancing and flirting.  This outfit so immediately commanded the attention of everyone who saw it.

Georgina Chapman focused her dressmaker's eye on the unfinished, uneven hems and the tentative lengths.  Mondo couldn't quite decide on whether this was a midi or a maxi length.  But in the end, that was a minor quibble.  Mondo, the print master, stitched up another win.

Oh, dear Lord.....

Mila Hermanovski was never destined to win this challenge.  Her aesthetic is more streamlined, modern and architectural.  It's not the kind of thing you'd expect to see on a Broadway stage.

But Mila really sealed the deal when she picked this fabric.

It doesn't exactly "read" as a luxurious, rich fabric.

The chevron gold fabric in the top was interesting and very Mila, however, the blouson shape did nothing to flatter the model.   The white, fur coat was much, too much.  And the skirt that she created from the green and yellow fabric, while it was interesting, looked a little to mod.  Isaac was right to point out that it looked like the top and the skirt belonged to two different outfits.  Then again, pairing gold and yellow together is always very tricky.  I don't see how Mila could have made this outfit work without reworking the entire concept and substituting some of the elements. For one thing, the skit really doesn't lend itself to the sort of carefree dancing and moving around that Godspell is known for.

But the real disaster of the evening was Kara Janx.

"Oy gevalt!"
I know there's no Yiddish in Godspell, but maybe there should be.  In fact, Stephen Schwartz would likely welcome it.  What wasn't welcome was Kara's aesthetic.  Sure, she could do a rich woman's dress, but that woman was going to be streamlined and sophisticated.  She'd be the woman to walk into the theatre with her perfect Orchestra section seats--right in the middle--not to close, not too far away.  But that's not the woman on the stage.

The red skirt was Kara's undoing.  She tried a long skirt.  She tried a midi skirt.  In the end, she went with knee length but it just wasn't dramatic enough.  So she stuck a great, big bow in the front, which killed any sophistication it may have had.

The back wasn't much better.  It puckered and stretched in weird ways.

Again, how would Sonia have been able to dance, move and sing in this outfit?  It was just the wrong garment for the challenge all the way around.  So Kara was sent home.

Next week, our final six designers ("The most talented room in Project Runway history") wave the flag at the United Nations!  See you then!

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