BWW Blog: Brandon Davidson of MY FAIR LADY at Stages St. Louis
I'd like to introduce myself: My name is Brandon Davidson and I am playing Freddy in Stages St. Louis' production of My Fair Lady. I have been selected to be this month's guest blogger, and I am excited to shine a light on some special people involved in this production.
Musical Theatre is particularly charming because it is the sum of many detailed parts beyond the talent you see onstage. These parts include lights, choreography, direction, costumes, make-up, scenery, sound & orchestrations, just to name a few. When all these elements align, a spark ensues and a show is born, night after night.
This evening I will be featuring Pamela Brumley. Tonight we discuss the detailed costumes she wears as Eliza Doolittle, how they represent Eliza's transformation and inform Ms. Brumley as an actress.
In fact, as I sit in my dressing room writing this article I am listening to Pam sing "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" during Act I. Her performance as Eliza is not to be missed, and it has been my pleasure to interview Ms. Brumley. I hope you enjoy her intelligent responses.
Brandon: Have you ever played this role before?
Pam: I have, I have played it a couple of times. It is one of those roles that I would never grow tired of...Eliza is a special character and I am thrilled to be playing her again here at Stages St. Louis.
Brandon: Excellent. Have you ever performed any other pieces in this time period (1912-era)?
Pam: I have performed in several period pieces. It's my favorite kind of work to do. Not only because of the lovely costumes, but because it's fun to transport audiences to a different time.
Brandon: I'd love to talk about your many costumes in this show. I notice each of your costumes contain many individual pieces. Off hand, do you know which costume has the most layers?
Pam: Oh goodness. I think it has to be the Cockney costume which is the first one I wear; the outfit that Eliza wears when she's selling flowers on the street. Cockneys had to dress in multiple layers because it was cold on the streets, and my costume is very true to form. It's a fantastic costume but there are several layers: 2 skirts, a petticoat, an apron, gloves, boots, an undershirt, a jacket, a scarf & a shawl - and those are just the outer layers you see. Underneath it all are the undergarments, tights, and 2-mic packs in different places. Once everything is put together it's easy to feel a bit like the Michelin man!
Brandon: You also have many wigs and hats, correct?
Pam: Yes, I have 4 different wigs and 4 hats. A couple of them are of epic proportions!
Brandon: How many quick changes?
Pam: There is one extremely quick costume change, and the rest of the changes are just fairly quick, considering all the pieces involved in each one. But near the end of the show, there is one change for which I have ample time.
Brandon: How many costumes in total?
Pam: 6-costumes. I've been blessed with a great dresser, Michelle McCrees, who has everything down to a science and is ready when I come offstage for each quick change.
Brandon: Eliza goes through a great transformation, from the Cockney flower girl to an upper class lady. This change is reflected in your costume plot progression. How do the different costumes inform you as an actress with that transformation?
Pam: These costumes absolutely inform my transformation. I am one of those actors who responds to what I am wearing, and the costume really helps me as I work on my character. Particularly in this show, where each level of the class structure has a specific clothing structure. My character undergoes quite a transformation on many different levels, and you can see Eliza's personal journey reflected symbolically in her costume progression. Dottie Marshall-Englis, the costume designer, has executed this brilliantly. Not only does she make the costumes look beautiful through her attention to detail and her knowledge of the time period, but she also pays attention to the character's journey. For example, Eliza's first Cockney outfit involves rosy colors and earth tones. As she progresses into the world of an upper class lady and is stretched beyond her comfort zone, the color families in her costumes change along with the styles. But at the end of the play in my final outfit, I am wearing a more tailored and upper class dress, but it is in the same color palette as my first Cockney costume. It's as if Eliza, although she has certainly grown, has found her way back to herself. She maintains her very essence & spirit, even though her outer appearance, her dialect, behavior, emotional state and confidence level have blossomed and changed. I know that Dottie and Michael Hamilton, the director, have worked together closely to incorporate this idea into what Eliza wears. They have put thought into which outfits Higgins and other people have selected for her, and which outfits Eliza has chosen for herself, which is a wonderful touch.
Brandon: Wow, what an intelligent observation - and very interesting to note the subliminal story telling through costume progression. You really look stunning in all the costumes. So, knowing what it feels like to dress in 1912 vs. 2013, which time period do you prefer?
Pam: Aw, thanks Brandon... You know, it's funny - I love doing shows set in this time period because of the beautiful, elegant styles that people wore back then. I've often made the comment, "I wish people still dressed like this nowadays," or thought "wouldn't it have been interesting to live in that era?" Well... but then I think about it...and we're really very blessed to live in this day and age. Not only for various social reasons such as women's rights, but also because we don't have to wear a million layers year-round! We can still wear a lovely dress when we choose, but we have more options now that are more comfortable and weather appropriate too, and I am thankful for that. So I am very happy to live in the present day, but I certainly enjoy paying a visit to that era on stage.
Brandon: Well thank you very much Pam, and congrats on a great performance!
Pam: Thank you, Brandon!
And, thank you readers for your interest in this interview. Be sure to tune in next week to learn a bit more about My Fair Lady at Stages St. Louis.
"You can see Eliza's personal journey reflected symbolically in her costume progression. Dottie Marshall-Englis, the costume designer, has executed this brilliantly.." -Pamela Brumley as Eliza Doolittle