Just me talking about costume-y kind of stuff
The Savoy Theatre
This is the only theatre I'd been in before this trip. Back in the 1984 I was in London for four days on a school trip and we saw one show: Noises Off, here at the Savoy. It had opened at the Hammersmith and after ecstatic reviews, had transferred to the Savoy in 1982, where it ran till 1987. I had seen the original production and I didn't even know it. So I was very excited to go back and see something else there. I was particularly interested in the history of the building, because I remembered the theatre being very unusual on the inside. I did some research and discovered that it was built by on the site of a palace in 1881 by Richard D'Oyly Carte for Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas. Since then it also premiered Oscar Wilde's Salome in 1931 and Blithe Spirit in 1941.
The palace was built by Henry III's wife's uncle--Peter, Count of Sabaudia. Peter built his palace in 1263. On Peter's death, it was given to the Queen's son, and eventually was inherited by John of Gaunt. It was burned down in the Peasant's Revolt of 1381. In 1512 Henry VII built a hospital on the site which stood until 1702 when the hospital went out of business due to poor management and the building was turned into a military prison. In the 19th C, the buildings were torn down and new construction was done. In 1864 a fire burned everything except the stone walls and the chapel and it sat empty until D'Oyly bought it in 1880. Nine years later, D'Oyly added a hotel to the site and moved the entrance to the theatre so that it was on the same side as the entrance to the hotel. The Savoy was the first theatre to be lit by electricity rather than gas lamps. it was also, at the time, state of the art in terms of fire safety, using fire-proof materials in the construction and with four exits on each side. Here's a photo of what the interior looked like originally.
The theatre's interior was redone in 1929 in the Art Deco style. In 1990 while undergoing some refurbishment, a fire destroyed everything but the stage and backstage areas. It was rebuilt as faithfully as possible to the 1929 designs and reopened in 1993. As someone who saw it before and after the fire, they did a great job of restoration. it looks exactly like I remembered it. They now have plaques all over the outside of the building commemorating its history.
Here's two photos I took of stage right and left sides of the house.
Here's a view from the stage of the restored interior.
The best thing about this show was the tech. The costumes were stunning, the changes miraculous, and they were certainly shown to their best by the lighting and stage design. The show was worth it just to see the dazzling designs. I loved all the wigs as well. There was one magical quick change that happened onstage with Effie while she was singing. The hit her with a spotlight while she was wearing one dress, then tightened it down to just her face and when they opened it up just a few seconds later, she was wearing a completely different costume. I loved the sleight of hand! The set was racks of Fresnels which moved to different positions on stage to create different spaces. There were beaded light up curtains that provided backdrops for The Dreams. The set was made of light and motion and seemed to be a character all on its own.
With that being said, I'd missed the original touring version back in the 1980's when it came to A&M and played in the big theatre while I was across the hall at the Forum doing our own show. I did take the poster home with me after strike and kept it for years, wishing I had been able to see the show. When the movie came out, I saw that instead. In comparing the stage revival to the movie, the West End production was weak. And I don't mean that the performers couldn't sing or dance, they were fabulous performers. The actress playing Effie has a blowtorch for a voice. I'd like to tell you who she was, but they had three names listed as playing Effie plus one understudy. I have no idea which one of them we saw. What I mean by weak is that they cut so much of the story out of the production, that if I hadn't seen the movie, I would have no idea of what was going on. There was very little dialogue between songs to tell the story of the personal relationships between characters, or the machinations involved in all the backstabbing that went on. I don't know if there were cuts made from the original Broadway version, or they just added more explanation to the film, but if that's what happened, the show certainly needs it. If I hadn't seen the movie I wouldn't have known that Curtis sold his car dealership to finance the records, or that Jimmy Early was doing drugs, that Curtis fired him, or that Jimmy died of a drug overdose. We weren't told that Dina provided all the evidence against Curtis or that Curtis was beating her. So I'm really glad I knew what was going on, but I felt sorry for the students who hadn't seen the movie (it was before their time) and were lost.
Costume Designer Gregg Barnes
The Dreamgirls have 16 changes. On the lavender dresses there are 30,000 Swarovski crystals on each dress. You can see them being applied individually to the fabric before the dress is made on the video.
Gregg Barnes rendering technique is so lovely. He uses Swarovski crystals on the renderings!
It was a short walk from the hotel the theatre, but we'd been walking all day and were tired. We got there early and there was nowhere to sit and wait for the students but on the sidewalk, which I did. We'd picked up sandwiches from Tesco and sat on the sidewalk eating them like hobos right next to a Rolls Royce. We did see several of the performers show up and go in the back entrance which was guarded by a hotel employee. At least he didn't shoo us away.