Best Actress in a Musical Tony nominee Christine Ebersole has a hard act to follow. It's not just the weight of theatrical history or the talent of her sister nominees. Christine's impeccable comic timing and her warm way with a song have earned her a place among the best. The challenge is to outshine Dorothy Brock, one of the most glamorous women on Broadway.
Dorothy who, you ask? La Brock is Christine's character in Best Musical Revival nominee 42nd Street, the demanding leading lady of the show-within-the-show. Thanks to costume designer Roger Kirk, she is a one-woman fashion parade of fur-trimmed day wear, maribou feathers, royal purple satin, form-fitting gold beads, and red velvet. So what will Christine be wearing when she steps out of character for the June 3 Tony Awards? In late May, she gave Playbill On-Line an advance look at her ensemble for Sunday night.
Ebersole's Tony gown is designed by Arend Basile. Arend, as he is known, spent fourteen years in Paris with Givenchy before opening his Upper East Side atelier. One wall of the inner sanctum is covered with drawings of his latest collection. After meeting Christine for the first time and hearing her talk about the look she wanted, Arend made five sketches. The actress and the designer were so in tune, she picked the very first one.
In keeping with the setting of her show, the long, slender silhouette evokes the 1930s. The chiffon bodice plunges and "shows off her beautiful back," Arend notes. The skirt is made from a lustrous silk called charmeuse, with more chiffon draped at the waist, "in that Twenties Thirties Oriental style." The gown is form-fitting through the hips, but there is extra fabric in the legs to allow a graceful glide to the stage should her name be called.
What color is it? "It doesn't really have a name," Christine said in the car on the way to the fitting. "It's not really midnight blue. Think of the color of the sky at the very end of a sunset." In honor of the great Dubin-Warren ballad she sings in Act II of 42nd Street, we borrowed from the lyric to dub the shade "Quarter to Nine." And talk about "stars [who] are gonna twinkle and shine." Christine visited the Fifth Avenue salon of legendary jeweler Harry Winston to select some diamonds for Tony night. As various members of the staff offered congratulations — Winston had also bedecked the cast for 42nd Street's opening — Christine tried on four magnificent bracelets. "Are they heavy?" I ask. "Not really," she says, adding a punchline with a wink, ".....for diamonds."
The bracelet she chose is cluster diamonds set in platinum. A word to the wise: the single emerald cut stone is a marker for locating the hidden clasp. Then came the earrings. And finally, a pear-shaped diamond ring for the tapered fingers that may well hold the Tony.
So what does this working mother of three like to wear off stage? Pajamas, she sighs. Later, posing in her finery, half teasing and half sincere, she says, "I hope I don't let you down. It's already been decided out there in the universe, we just have to wait to find out." Here's looking at you, kid!
-- by Amy Asch