BWW Interviews: Costume Designer Katherine Snider Talks PETE N' KEELY
It's PETE N' KEELY again! Brought to you by Swell shampoo, of course.
The skinny: Before Jay and Bey were on the run, Pete n' Keely were running the strip. Now, they're two aging stars who will do anything for a comeback - even if it means working together. Five years after an unsuccessful stint at Caesar's Palace followed by a divorce, the couple reunites to stage a career-saving telecast live at NBC television studios in New York City. It's doubtful they'll make it through the show without killing each other.
Recently, I got the chance to talk to Costume Designer Katherine Snider, the woman who helped put the glitz in this glitzy and fun production.
BWW: How did you create costumes that served all the various needs of the script, the actors, and the production?
Katherine Snider: The first thing you do is you read the play, of course. In this one, it's not really clear exactly how many costumes there are, so after I read it, I talked to Kenn McLaughlin, the director. We sat down and had to figure it out. He had two more costumes in his head than I had in mine. He wanted to do a Bob Mackie, which is great with me. I love Bob Mackie, and I've never been able to do that. Then I went out and did a whole bunch of research.
We talked about the other big influence - the arc of the show. We wanted to express, through their costumes, where the characters started out emotionally at the beginning and what they're trying to say. In fact, the last costume, I don't have a rendering for that costume, because when I was doing the rendering, Ken came up to me and said, "I have an idea about changing the arc of the character." And he told me what it was. It was this sense that Pete and Keely have always had this fear of who they are, so they pretend to be something that they're aren't. This is why they make themselves big stars. At the end, we're finally seeing them. Because of that, for the very first time, as a couple, they have a chance. The final costume I had designed was wrong for that idea. So, I changed that costume to fit the arc that he wanted for the characters.
BWW: Could you tell me about the fashion periods you drew from?
Katherine Snider: The late sixties. I love the late sixties. It's the first period I personally remember. I was born in '64, so I was about four years old in '68. I actually do remember that period. In fact, the first outfit that Keely wears in the beginning of the second act, I had a pair of culottes made of almost the exact fabric [Laughs]. And the first person I loved on television was Carol Burnett, who always wore Bob Mackie. So my first love of fashion was from this period.
My inspiration, fashion-wise, for Pete was Bobby Darin. I love Bobby Darin and a lot of his looks are based off older Bobby Darin. He even got his hair [I Laugh]. His suits are form-fitting and the pants - I love the sharkskin. That was a real popular material, especially with the Rat Pack, which I also looked at.
BWW: How do you see the character's arcs as translated through the costumes?
Katherine Snider: The first costume is kind of the statement costume. First impressions are big. That's the flashiest of the costumes. Well, red is pretty flashy [referring to the red matching outfits that appear later in the production]. But, it's the most sophisticated costume. We want to put across the sophistication.
We arc in the first act to red. We go from the white to the red. The red is the happiest look. But, it's also the most extreme in terms of color. It's matching. It's the kitschiest, I think. And that's where they headed in their career.
In the second act, we started off with something that's very different - they're Broadway, and that's fun. But, then we go from there into when they broke up and went into their solo careers. We see a little more of who they are individually. Her costume is beautiful and sophisticated and not at all, I don't think, glitzy. But people didn't accept her in that. And Pete is in pants and a shirt. He's pared down to his essentials. He's much more of a normal kind of guy.
In the end she's wearing a dress that, while the fabric is for television, the cut, the flow, is much more normal. A girl might wear a dress shaped just like that and a guy might wear a suit cut exactly like Pete's. They're becoming real people, as opposed to Barbie and Ken.