With all of the elements of putting up a production (be it a regional mounting or a high school musical), hair and wig design can often feel like a luxury. But every production on Broadway has a hair/wig designer—and for a reason. Hairstyles are an extension of character; they indicate time period and status, not to mention an individual’s personality.
Because every production deserves hair and/or wig design, Playbill asked the professionals to offer best practices and products to achieve the look of Broadway, without the expense.
Designers who work on musicals like Jagged Little Pill, Disney’s Aladdin and Frozen, Mean Girls, Moulin Rouge!, and more, weigh in below to offer do’s for your ’do.
READ: How to Design Your School Production’s Lights, Sets, Sound, and Costumes on a Budget
For a realistic look: “It’s all about the hairline. On a handmade wig, the hairline needs to be finessed well. It’s important to understand that no one has a straight hairline. When we see a very straight, solid hairline, we immediately know that someone is wearing a wig.” —J. Jared Janas, hair and wig designer for Jagged Little Pill
x2: “Adding roots (even slightly) to a wig will make it appear more realistic. Also, when styling a wig, I add a ‘crinkle’ to hairlines with a blowdryer and brush, so it’s not too smooth and perfect. It takes less than 10 seconds and helps immensely. Some of my crews call it the ‘Marquette Crinkle,’ so I guess I’ve given the note a few times!” —Josh Marquette, hair designer for Aladdin, Mean Girls
To match hair and make-up: "When using lace-front wigs, always carry alcohol-based markers with you that allow you to change the color of the front lace to match any skin tone. I like to use Prismacolor Premier markers in colors pm-88 and pm-276." —J. Jared Janas
Wig maintenance: "Products that moisturize and condition a wig will ultimately protect your investment in the wigs themselves. Once wigs dry out, the hair breaks and eventually have to be replaced at great cost. Also, be sure to regularly clean and shampoo. Even wigs that don’t get much product get dirty and dingy. They lose their shine and look lifeless and stop moving naturally." —Josh Marquette
Keep in mind: “Less is more. Most wigs are over set/styled.” —David Brian Brown, hair and wig design for Frozen, Dear Evan Hansen, Moulin Rouge!, Mrs. Doubtfire
For a professional flair: “When using a curling iron, wrap your hair around the barrel, instead of curling it the traditional way. The result will look very expensive and chic.” —J. Jared Janas
One skill to brush up on: “Know how to do a pincurl. It will allow you to set a wig when you have no other resources like rollers, irons, etc. You can create almost any style just with pincurls. It’s also good to prepare an actor's head to wear a wig. The hair needs to be prepped flat first; pincurls or braiding are used for this.” —David Brian Brown
Research resource: "Many productions are based on characters that are your average person, which can be difficult to research. Most photos and prints are of celebrities. I have a large library of yearbooks from all over the world—from 1880 till present. Not only does it show you real people of the time, but it breaks it down for you: Adults, Youth, Athletes, Beauty, Most likely to succeed….” —David Brian Brown
“For curly hair, always carry a curl refresher spray. The transformation is instantaneous. For straighter hair, a lightweight leave-in conditioner can transform hair quickly.” —J. Jared Janas
“A good-shaped wig block. It will help you keep your style in proportion. And a rattail comb.” —David Brian Brown
READ: Magic to ’Do: How Paul Huntley Became a Broadway Wig Master
Go behind the scenes with one Broadway hair and wig department...at The Band’s Visit: