Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom stage musical is about to enter its final week of previews before the curtain goes up on its world premiere in Sydney next Saturday.
The director is working down to the wire but the deadline for his wife, costume designer Catherine Martin, was the first dress rehearsal on February 25.
“This is the enjoyable part for set and costumes, you’re able to have perspective and actually to focus and work out technical things,” she said yesterday, during a break from overseeing the removal of costume feathers which had been falling off and jamming the wheels of sets.
Martin’s preparation for the latest version of the hit 1992 movie began 30 years ago when she designed costumes for the original NIDA stage version of Strictly Ballroom.
Last year, while reimagining the new stage wardrobe, she visited the archives of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, where most costumes from the hit film had been donated.
This weekend 38 of those pieces will go on display in a speedily organised homage to Martin’s work, The Strictly Ballroom Story.
Central to the display arranged by Powerhouse curators is the recognisable red and black Pasodoble costumes worn by Paul Mercurio and Tara Morice’s lead characters in the film.
In addition to the historical pieces, Martin loaned the museum her record haul of Oscar and BAFTA trophies and donated the custom-made Prada dresses she worn during the recent awards season, when she won two of those Oscars.
The producers of Strictly Ballroom on stage, Global Creatures, have also donated replicas of new fruity mambo costumes worn in the stage show by the nasty characters Tina Sparkle and Nathan Starkey so visitors can see up close the how the costumes have developed.
Martin said audiences now, 22 years after the original film, were more sophisticated so her rules of engagement are amplify and refine while not losing the preposterous. The new stage costumes feature huge pineapples.
“This musical is set in the 80s but (also) in its own context,” she said.
“One of the things stage requires is amplification because the costume (co-designer) Angus (Strathie) did was absolutely beautiful, made of tiny jewelled glittered fruit which works beautifully on camera because you can get up close but for the stage we needed to amplify that message so you can tell it’s a fruit,” she said.