Oklahoma! is the Pulitzer Prize winning, musical from the celebrated duo Rodgers and Hammerstein. The Production Company’s staging of this dawn-of-the-20th-century love story played out against an expansive wagon canopy that filled the cavernous State Theater stage.
The challenge of costuming this musical was finding a balance between the Director’s vision of gritty honest naturalism of 1906 territory farm life, with the stylized technicolor aesthetic of the 1955 golden era midday movie that has been permanently etched into our collective memory. The costumes had to tell the story of hard-working cattlemen and farmers, their daughters and wives, building modest lives for themselves in the vast and isolated great plains.
The women, dressed in pretty pale florals, a colour palate that echoed the corn and wheat grown in the vast fields that was also sympathetic to the flaxen canvas of the set. The dresses were feminine and simple, as they needed to suggest a homemade quality, proudly constructed by the wearer to showcase her fine domestic skills. The ladies’ ensembles were completed by unpretentious straw hats, adorned with delicate floral sprigs and modest ribbons.
The menswear was, in contrast, course, masculine, utilitarian and heavily broken down. The men needed to look like hardworking farmers and their clothing needed to covey the months of sweat and toil working on the land. I layered earthy tones of denim, canvas, leather, suede and chambray, and to fit the aesthetic of working man’s attire, these garments were never to be pressed during maintenance. Hats were introduced in the rehearsal room from the outset so that they could be handled and crushed to get a well-worn appearance.
BEHIND THE SEAMS
Music by Richard Rodgers
Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Based on the 1931 play, Green Grow the Lilacs. by Lynn Riggs
The State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
The Production Company 2018
PETER GRUBB, KELVIN GEDYE and JOHN SCANDRETT – SYSTEM SOUND
THE PRODUCTION COMPANY ORCHESTRA