Smarting eyes and blistering fingers.
Two things that spring to mind when I stared at the feathers, sequins and complicated wiring before me. I’m at the Costume department of the LightSeeker musical, filled with over 150 costumes. In the corner, the head of creative costume services Sydney Bacenas hunched over Usha’s fiery red costume, busy negotiating with some feathers.
With a 42-strong cast, Sydney and her team are kept busy with LightSeeker’s colourful wardrobe of whimsical pieces. Dazzling costumes that stand out are a norm for musicals, but what’s unusual and tricky is combining high-tech gadgetry to the costumes. Working with a partner in Hong Kong, Sydney and her team took half a year to bring the costumes from sketches to life – which, I heard, is a considerable feat.
She shows me the three most complicated costumes for the musical.
Up close, the blood-red costume blinds with sparkling sequins, and as if it’s not enough work hand-sewing these tiny glittering embellishments onto the whole dress, feathers are added for a more dramatic texture and movement. Three types of feathers are used – ostrich and two different types of chicken feathers. Each feather has to be delicately handled when sewn onto the dress to maintain its fluffy effect. I had guessed something like that would take three weeks to sew, but Sydney shares it takes only three days!
I could only imagine how tiring it is for The General to engage in combat on stage, clad in his armour. As it turns out, his costume is only deceptively heavy.
Hefty metallic armours worn by knights of ages past are simply too heavy and impractical for a modern day musical that requires deft movements. Hence, The General’s armour is actually made of foam and wrapped in a metallic fabric that looks like metal, allowing Stuart Boother who plays the General to kick butt effortlessly.
Tip from Sydney: costumes are not just about aesthetics, they need to be practical too. For easy wearing and removal, magnetic snaps are used in place of buttons and rivets on the armour.
People who have watched LightSeeker would have seen how Nova’s torso glows occasionally. The illuminating light is the result of LED lights embedded in her corset.
To eliminate the harsh lines and dots typical of these lights, the team added layers of plastic with holographic patterns to diffuse the ugly effect and transform it into a soft glow that radiates from within Nova.
The lights are connected to the battery and dimmer packs strapped to Sarah Brown’s (who plays Nova) legs. Together with her microphone, Sarah has a total of six packs hidden discreetly beneath her costume as she ’floats’ around the stage. I really have to give it to her for not letting the discomfort get in the way of her performance.
When you watch LightSeeker – as Usha struts about with pompous arrogance, as The General battles it out on stage and as Nova glows like an angel – perhaps take a moment to consider the work that goes into getting that visual spectacle on stage, and the blistered fingers and knitted eyebrows the Costume team goes through to get it there.