The Production Company’s “Thoroughly Modern Millie” played out in a highly stylised version 1920’s New York City... the New York of Millie’s dreams. The director’s vision set the events of Millie’s journey against a twinkling beaded backdrop, like the inside of a giant art deco crystal chandelier.
One of the design challenges presented by this show was how to make the period silhouette of the 1920’s work on the modern athletic dancers’ bodies. The length of hems, dropped waistlines and sack-like period fit all had to be modified to give the immediate impression and elegance of 1920’s fashion, but with the fit and functionality of a modern garment. Dresses were made of stretch fabrics and built onto leotards, to anchor the garments in place and keep them streamlined. Sinuous design lines and garment details were chosen which were quintessentially 1920’s but which didn’t accentuate the often-unflattering lines of a dropped-waist seam.
Permanent pleating also featured quite heavily in the designs for this show. The choice to pleat stretch jerseys and crepes in a variety of “box” and “knife” depths, not only sold the idea of mid-twenties fashion, but the weight of the pleated panels helped anchor the dresses on the body. It also gave great movement to the costume, especially in a tap-heavy show, as well as being durable.
The joy of designing this show was creating a trousseau of sorts for the character of Millie. The greater themes of the script – the dual nature of dreams and success – were played out as much in costume as they were in song and dance. The story of her journey from simple Kansas farm girl to a thoroughly modern New Yorker was told partly through the clothes she wore. Millie’s wardrobe sampled all that 1920’s fashion had to offer a bright young thing.
Greenroom Award (Nomination) Musical Theatre
Costume Design for “Thoroughly Modern Millie” 2020
BEHIND THE SEAMS
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Lyrics by Dick Scanlan
Book by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan
Based on the 1967 Universal Pictures Film Thoroughly Modern Millie
Original Story & Screenplay by Richard Morris
The State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
The Production Company 2019
PETER GRUBB, KELVIN GEDYE and JOHN SCANDRETT – SYSTEM SOUND
THE PRODUCTION COMPANY ORCHESTRA
QUEENIE VAN DE ZANDT