The San Francisco Performing Arts Library & Museum will showcase the rare costume designs of the original Broadway production of Merrily We Roll Along -- designs that were famously scrapped in favor of a generic t-shirt design -- in a new exhibit called "Princely Designs: Judith Dolan Designs for Hal Prince."
The exhibit, Nov. 10-Jan. 8, 2000, includes 60 sketches from seven of eight shows Dolan worked on for the legendary director Harold Prince. The former Bay Area resident, a Tony Award-winning costume designer for Prince's 1997 revival of Candide, moved to San Diego recently and now is a professor of design at the University of California at San Diego.
Dolan's sketches for the Merrily characters Gussie, Beth, Mary, Frank and Charley, show how their tastes and attitudes change in the period between 1980-1955. (The show, a quick flop in the 1981-82 season, told its story by starting at present and going back in time.)
"She had to go rummaging for those sketches," exhibit curator Sheryl Flatow told Playbill On-Line. " We have a couple of the characters, the women, over a few different periods. [Through the period costumes], you see how the person evolves or devolves, depending on how you look at it."
Prince, who scrapped Dolan's original designs in favor of the idea of garbing the young company in t-shirts with the characters' names emblazoned on their chests ("Producer," "Agent," "Best Friend," etc.), later confessed he had no big-picture visual idea for the show. Dolan also oversaw the t-shirt designs. Other Dolan-Prince collaborations represented are the Off-Broadway baseball revue, Diamonds, The Public Theater's staging of The Petrified Prince, New York City Opera's Candide, the 1997 Livent Candide (which won Dolan the Tony), Lincoln Center Theatre's Parade and Houston Grand Opera's Willie Stark.
Off-Broadway's Grandchild of Kings, for Irish Rep, is not represented in the show.
Actual costumes from Parade and The Petrified Prince (and perhaps more) will also be on hand. The show will also include text about Dolan's process and ideas, Flatow said.
The San Francisco Performing Arts Library & Museum is at 401 Van Ness Avenue, 4th Floor, in San Francisco's Civic Center area. The gallery is open free of charge. For information, call (415) 255-4800 or try www.sfpalm.org.
-- By Kenneth Jones