Suzy Benzinger began her costume design career as the assistant to Theoni Aldridge on Broadway’s Dreamgirls in 1981. Little did she know how well the flash and splash of musicals would serve her in the gig she’s now had for the last 12 years: costume designer of Le Rêve – The Dream at the Wynn in Las Vegas. “We did La Cage, we did 42nd Street, all those huge musicals,” says Benzinger. “So I was used to big productions.”
Still, a line of dozens of tapping chorines was small potatoes compared to the voluminous demands of the long-running Le Rêve, which celebrated its 6,000th performance May 5. “One sketch can mean 200 actual costumes,” says Benzinger. “And I have hundreds of sketches.” From the massive size of the cast (over 90 performers) to the wear and tear on the costumes from the water and quick changes out of wet fabric, the costumes last about two months—something Benzinger hadn’t anticipated when she first took the job. “The real show is under water,” she says.
“After working with Twyla Tharp and the dancers of Movin’ Out, I knew movement and what costumes had to do to move, but I had to learn what happens to fabric if it got wet,” she explains. “What happens to color, what pays off under the lights. I had to learn to build with more color and sparkle. We have fabric made all over the world.” Benzinger spends days out of the year testing fabric in the water.
She and the full creative team, including Tony-winning lighting designers Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, never stop working on the show. Because the plot is so loose (“The idea is a dream, it’s a succession of images and ideas and emotions and things and we can change all of that depending on the music,” she says), the show is constantly refreshed, and Le Rêve recently experienced one of its greatest overhauls in the production’s history. “It’s an evolving show. We change the colors and he changes his lights and [composer] Benoît [Jutras] will change the music,” she explains.
Here, Benzinger walks us through her latest Le Rêve redesign and how the completely new costumes manage to tell a new story with the same heart. Flip through the gallery to hear the origins of the new costumes: