THE ART OF SEEING, By Michael Milton, Arts Contributor
MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG at the Astoria performing Arts Center, The Good Shepard United Methodist Church, 30-44 Crescent St. @ 30th Road. 8 PM, 5/21,22; 2 PM & 8 PM 5/23 For info call 718-706-5750
“Costumes,” says two-time Academy Award-winner Colleen Atwood, “are the first impression you have of a character before they even open their mouths!”
Costume designer and Brooklyn resident Jennifer Jacob couldn’t agree more. “It’s true. It’s what I try to always remember when designing costumes. The first step is to figure out who the people are in the play. I make choices for costumes based on character, not so much based on the actor who plays the character.”
MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG offers a special challenge to any costumer. The musical challenges the audience to bond with characters who are moving BACKWARDS in time. We meet the characters in 1976 when they are in their 40s, disillusioned, drunk and desperate. We then move back through the years with them, learning more about their life choices until finally, in 1957, we see them as they started out on their journeys– courageous and filled with idealism and hope for the future– theirs and America’s.
“Thank God I was able to utilize a lot of vintage clothes,” says Jacob. “It’s still quite a job bringing them back to life and fitting them to the particular actor.”
Jacob celebrates the bright colors, flowing designs and the psychedelic patterns made popular in the ‘70s by The Beatles, Sonny and Cher, and TV’s LAUGH-IN, along with the iconic wide ties and broad lapels of the time.
“The costumes need to keep you in the time of the action of the show,’” says Jacob. “The actors can’t change THEIR real age, so costumes and make up need to do it for them, right down facial hair, changing lapel widths with the passage of years and time appropriate shoe shapes.”
Jennifer landed in Brooklyn 9 years ago. And though Jennifer’s day job is in the costume department at the Metropolitan Opera in Manhattan, she is happy to be able to come home to Brooklyn. “I loved it here right away. And I could never afford a space like the one I have now across the river! And I’m inspired here…the Brooklyn and Metropolitan Museums have combined their costume collections and last year’s ‘KILLER HEELS’ exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum was so much fun.”
MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG—a qualified failure when it first opened back in 1981– was the next to the last teaming of legendary stage director Hal Prince with composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim, following their critical success in COMPANY, FOLLIES, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, PACIFIC OVERTURES and the stupendous SWEENEY TODD.
“I have costumed a lot of musicals. This show is the one I am the most proud of.” Jennifer says that Mr. Sondheim sent the company a letter wishing everyone the best and all hope, of course, that he will come to their last weekend of performances. “I love this score,” gushes Jennifer. “And it is, arguably, one of Sondheim’s best.
‘We have a wonderful cast and everyone has been amazing to work with… and the reviews have been terrific! It is a great opportunity to see a show that isn’t revived very often.”