BWW Exclusive Interview: Tony-Winning Costume Designer Ann Hould-Ward Talks Paper Mill's Broadway-Bound CAN CAN

Paper Mill Playhouse will open its 2014 - 2015 season with the Broadway-bound, world-class revival of Can-Can starring Kate Baldwin as Pistache and Jason Danieley as Aristide. This fresh new production features direction by David Lee (Frasier, Cheers) and choreography by Patti Colombo (Paper Mill's Peter Pan, On the Town, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers). The show features a book by Abe Burrows (Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) and revised by Joel Fields (Ugly Betty, The Americans) and David Lee. Can-Can's score features some of Cole Porter's timeless classics including "I Love Paris," "C'est Magnifique," "It's All Right With Me" and more. Can-Can will play the Millburn, New Jersey theater from Oct 1 through Oct 26, 2014.

Today, BWW speaks exclusively with talented Tony Award-winning costume designer Ann Hould-Ward (Broadway's Beauty and the Beast), the force behind this highly-anticipated production's magnificent costumes.

What inspired you to become a costume designer?

AUNTIE MAME!! I saw the movie as a tiny child in my PJs in the back seat of our car at the drive in movie in Montana - I was about 4. I remember standing there hanging over the seat watching Rosiland Russell with all these wonderful different colored wigs and thinking - " I want to do that!!" Of course at the time I had NO idea what "that" was.

But I went on to go with my grandparents to The Old Brewery Theater" in Helena Montana as an older child and saw - guess what among others? AUNTIE MAME!!

So I knew I loved the color and the life and the music of the theater and I learned to sew from my Mom and 4H and it just started to come together.

Years later my first theater job was sewing costumes at The Old Brewery - and being a butterfly in Hello Dolly and a young boy in The Happy Times!

Can you talk about your process when designing the costumes for Can-Can? What type of historical research was required in order to ensure accuracy of the period fashion? Did you feel you had to stay true to that image or did you take some liberties and create your own interpretation of it?

I always first begin with a huge amount of true period research. In this instance Paris - 1893.

From there, once I think I have a grasp on the general period - silhouette, texture, color , and the actual history that was happening there at that point in time; I begin to bend that reality within the world of the words of the script and the vision of the director.

David Lee, our wonderful director, had spent many years with the show and he has worked on the new book for it so he was able to direct me into how he felt the show could visually connect to a 2014 audience.

Do you take into account a character's personality when designing? If so, how do you incorporate that into their costumes?

Well this is a fun one for personality as this a motley crew - from the beautiful Pistache trying to keep her dance hall open to Aristide the young and impassioned Judge to Boris the starving artist and Claudine the Laundry Girl who want to so the Can-Can they each have a lot of passion and energy! I try to spend time with them each at the drawing table when I am sketching them - I love to have all the research and the actors photos right there with me at the drawing table and then I just start to work back and forth between the period - the research - the sense I get from the actor. I love when I am drawing an actor I know and have worked with before as that also becomes a major part of my vision as I draw.

So the actual physicality of the actor portraying each role influences your design?

Yes. I just love when I know the actors - in Can-Can I have the wonderful Jason Danieley as Aristide and we just did The Visit together up in Williamstown and I did Second Hand Lions with him out at The 5th Avenue a couple years ago. So when I was designing the costume for Jason to sing in on the steps of the Courthouse I knew I wanted him in a coat he could really move around when he sang " I am in Love" - I could envision just how he would make it work.

I also have a couple of my beloved dancers from the musical " The Nutty Professor" - the wonderful Sarah Jenkins among them - and I just love knowing that I know their bodies and how they move. It means we can work together with a trust that lets me know they will help me make their clothes dance as well as they do!

What role does the show's script and music have on your designs?

Everything! They are the map that make my world - I read the script again and again and I listen to the score constantly - I like to play the music while I am drawing.

They tell me all about the dreams and aspirations of the people I am trying to bring to life.

My very favorite though is when the actors bring so much more understanding to the characters for me when I hear them say the words. Sometimes I go from questioning why a character is doing something at the drawing table to saying to myself as I watch the actor " well of course that was the motivation and I completely understand why they feel as they do!" Those are wonderful moments that then once again influence how you are working with the actor and their costumes.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced for this particular production?

Well I hope I am doing a good job of trying to get clothing that can do the super-human Can-Can that our brilliant choreographer Patti Colombo has conceived.

It is a huge dance show and just making sure the dancers can do their work in comfort and with the correct silhouette visible is a big challenge that I am trying to meet.

Along those lines, can you talk about how all aspects of the creative process - costume design, choreography, lighting, hair and wig design - are all interrelated? Is it difficult to coordinate all these different visions?

It is a lot of people to get on board the same ship - or to all build the parts of the boat shall we say. I think it starts with a director with a great vision and a love of working with people.

I felt that from David Lee the moment we first met. He had a curiosity about the people of the piece and at the same time had a great vision of how romantic and vital it could be. David was so clear about who these people were and the world they inhabited that it made it easy to start on the journey with him. I think we each were lucky to have David with his thoughts and ideas to start from and then we have been able to go on from there with our teams. It is exciting to work with Rob Bissinger designing the scenery as we have known each other for years but never worked as designers together.

You have designed costumes for period pieces, in which you have historical records to guide you, as well as for fantasy-themed productions, such as Beauty and the Beast. Do you have a preference? What are the differences in the way you approach both genres?

My preference is for diversity - and boy have I had it!

I remember one time I fit Julie Kent one day for a new ballet for ABT and the next morning I was in Florida fitting the elephants for Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus in elephant blankets with a man on a ladder throwing the blankets on an elephant who was none to happy about it!

I have gone from Sunday in the Park to The Visit with lots of stops in between and I enjoy them all.

I think the blessing is we get to work in so many different groups of artists - achieving different visions and learning new things each time.

I always try to go in with an open mind and I try to learn from what people say about how they are envisioning where we are headed with a piece.

I do this crazy thing of making a color board for every show that is really a collage of fabrics and textures that feel to me like the piece - I think it is my kind of "jazz" of what the piece means to me inside. Often times what ever comes about after that really does stem from those colors and textures.

Who are some of the designers who have influenced and inspired you?

My dear mentor Patricia Zipprodt taught me how to be a designer - she taught me how to love what we do and how to always be on my toes to see how to change with the design of a piece and where the actors and director are taking it.

I was so lucky to have Patricia and Theoni and Florence in my world - along with Barbara Matera who was kind enough to teach a young designer along the way as she made my clothing.

Do you have a dream show which you would like to design costumes for?

The next musical that talks to us as humans and sings to our souls and lets us learn about the world - How lucky are we that we share the world of the theater with composers and writers who continue to try to do this!

I am grateful for every show I do that lets me collaborate with people who have dreams in their hearts.

About Paper Mill's CAN-CAN:

Can-Can will be performed at Paper Mill Playhouse eight times a week, Wed - Sun. Performance schedule: Wednesday at 7:30PM, Thursday at 1:30PM and 7:30PM, Friday at 8:00PM, Saturday at 1:30PM and 8:00PM and Sunday at 1:30PM and 7:00PM. Subscriptions are on sale now and may be purchased by calling 973.379.3717. Single tickets will go on sale on Monday, July 28, 2014. Tickets may be purchased by calling 973.376.4343, at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, or online at PaperMill.org. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Groups of 10 or more can receive up to a 40% discount on tickets and should call 973.315.1680. College students can order $20 rush tickets over the phone or in person at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office on the day of the performance.

About Ann Hould-Ward:

Ms. Ward received the 1994 Tony Award for Best Costume Design for Beauty and the Beast. Some of her costume designs for Broadway include Sunday in the Park with George (Tony and Drama Desk nominations; Maharam Award for Outstanding Costume Design), A Catered Affair (Drama Desk Award nomination), Harrigan and Hart (Maharam nomination) and Into the Woods (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critic's Circle nominations; Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award).

Photo credit: John Zeitoun

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

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