Into the Woods and Beauty and the Beast Designer Ann Hould-Ward Reveals Her "Iconic and Influential" List of Theatrical Costumes

News   Into the Woods and Beauty and the Beast Designer Ann Hould-Ward Reveals Her "Iconic and Influential" List of Theatrical Costumes
 
In Playbill.com's latest feature series, we ask theatre artists to offer a selection of the stage creations that were influential to their own work. Our second edition of the series features selections from Tony Award-winning costume designer Ann Hould-Ward, who shares her list of influential fashion from stage and screen.

Ann Hould-Ward
Ann Hould-Ward

Hould-Ward received her first Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations in 1984 for her costume designs on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical Sunday in the Park With George. She was again nominated for the Tony and Drama Desk in 1988 when she collaborated with Sondheim and Lapine on their fairytale musical Into the Woods. She won the Tony Award for Costume Design in 1994 when she brought the characters of Disney's Beauty and the Beast to Broadway. Her designs for A Free Man of Color and A Catered Affair also garnered Drama Desk Award nominations.

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Ann Hould-Ward: What a daunting task you gave me! It has given us countless hours in conversation in the studio. First, we had to define "Iconic" for ourselves - to begin with a look up in the dictionary - "widely known or acknowledged for distinctive excellence." On top of that, I had to look at it from what the designs did for history of our theatre, our design community and our world. It makes one realize the importance of every decision we make and how it can resound not only for the moment but change history in the future.

Looking back through Broadway costume design to find these examples that I think are "iconic" has made me so proud that I am a member of a community with such talent. You see, a costume on Broadway is so many people, tailors, drapers, shoemakers, milliners, hair and make up designers, dressers, and the talented performers who make them the fantasy we all participate in when we see a Broadway show.

Thank you for making me look back – and look forward – with this assignment! Here is my list. I call it my "Something to Aim For List," as I try to be a better and more concise designer.

Click through to read Hould-Ward's selections.

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Torch Song Trilogy – June 10, 1982 – Helen Hayes Theatre
Designer: Mardi Philips

I call this "the lips and kimono heard round the world." The image that Mardi Philips and Harvey Fierstein created together was stunning and courageous – the eyes, the lips, the kimono made us look and continue to look. As a designer, we can only have the courage and conviction of the design if we are collaborating with a performer who is strong enough and brilliant enough to carry it with us to the audience. Mardi and Harvey changed the world for many of us with this design.

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Sweeney Todd – March 1, 1979 – Gershwin Theatre
Designer: Franne Lee

Who would think two knobs of hair on top of your head could become the signature of a musical? If they are placed on the beautiful head of Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett - they certainly can! If we look at the knots of hair - the bangs - the kohl-circled eyes and the cupid-like lips, it becomes obvious that Franne and Angela Lansbury found the delightful devious nature and the humor in the character, and in sharing it with the audience developed a image that spoke for the whole musical.

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Evita – September 10, 1979 – Broadway Theatre
Designers: Tim O'Brien/Tazeena Firth

The image of Patti LuPone in a white ballgown, arms lifted to show strength and bravery to her country... How wonderfully thought out this image is. The vulnerable neck and arms and yet they are dripping in "diamonds." The feminine nature of the layers of tulle coupled with the forceful nature of hair pulled sleekly back. This is a timeless design developed to enhance the song and moment no one will ever forget! It is only now as I look back at this dress, I realize how much I owe to it in my own design of the Cinderella at the ball dress for the original production of Into the Woods on Broadway.

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Cats – October 7, 1982 – Winter Garden Theatre
Designer: John Napier

Sometimes it is a magic cosmic alignment that makes for iconic design work. John Napier took the beginning of stretch fabrics being produced and found a way to make them the base for his fantasy felines. It was true innovation as he worked with artisans like Sally Ann Parsons to create new ways of painting and dying these stretch fabrics and adding texture to them with other kinds of fabric treatments. This, coupled with the glorious movement Gillian Lynne, who was able to choreograph for these actors, changed our theatre and choreography on Broadway forever.

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Starlight Express - March 15, 1987 - Gershwin Theatre
Designer: John Napier

Five years after Cats, John Napier took the knowledge he had literally invented about how to utilize stretch fabrics in the musical world and he added another element when he added vacuform elements to the costumes he designed for Starlight Express and his train costumes. He invented techniques that I would be the beneficiary of when I started to design Beauty and the Beast for Broadway. John Napier saw into the future of dirt-bike racing and car racing with these costumes. We see the grandchildren of them every time we watch these races.

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Fiddler on the Roof – September 22, 1964 – Imperial Theatre
Designer: Patricia Zipprodt

With Fiddler, Patricia showed us that the everyday clothing of the poor could have vibrancy, heart, and soul. She spent well over a year at the beginning of her design process doing pen-and-ink line drawings of the characters - and only after that beginning the process of determining color. Patricia became the mother of aging and distressing costumes as we know it today with her process for Fiddler. Most fabrics were over-dyed, and then in the aging process, color was once again removed to find other tones underneath. The process she developed would be the foundation on which we worked when we co-designed Sunday In The Park With George 20 years later.

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Sophisticated Ladies – March 1, 1981 – Lunt-Fontanne Theatre
Designer: Willa Kim

Sheer and unadulterated elegance was what Willa Kim achieved in her clothing for Judith Jamison in Sophisticated Ladies. Willa took the striking over-six-foot figure of Miss Jamison and showed us the stunning silhouette work that could be done. The swoop of the hair, the size of the collar, the movement of the fabric, and all on the kind of goddess who could make it work!

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The Phantom of the Opera – January 9, 1988 – Majestic Theatre
Designer: Maria Björnson

When Maria Björnson was chosen to design Phantom they received all the skill of her amazing opera career. She was the perfect choice to deliver the designs of a musical that needed to combine the world of opera and ballet with musical theatre. The romance, color, and texture of her clothing is magnificent. And as a continuing tribute, these costumes are still breathtaking every time I walk by the front of the theatre on 44th Street today.

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The Lion King – November 13, 1997 – New Amsterdam Theatre
Designer: Julie Taymor

Julie coupled the actor and the puppet into one total being. The effect was something we had not seen before on Broadway. She had the bravery to step forth with ideas that would work on the human body in the theatre and tell the story so we could all enjoy the multifaceted journey she took us on. Storytelling through costumes at its most sublime.

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum – May 8, 1962 – Alvin Theatre
Designer: Tony Walton

For those of us who know Tony, Forum is a prime example of the marvelous sense of humor so evident in his work. At the base of the work is a whiff of history – then it is "Walton-ized" with wit and charm. Who could resist the wonderful way he extrapolated from the actual design of historical motifs and in doing so helped telegraph to us there was a "Comedy Tonight"?

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