The New York Times
The Hats That Crowned Broadway
By ERIK PIEPENBURG
Photographs by TONY CENICOLA
MAY 5, 2017
Does anyone still wear a hat? For designers on Broadway this season, the answer was yes, actually, they very much do. Here’s a look at a season of heady headwear.
Bette Midler wears this signature headpiece in the revival’s signature title song, as Dolly Levi descends the staircase to greet the adoring staff at the Harmonia Gardens restaurant. About 30 inches wide and made of wire, beading and burnt ostrich feathers dyed red, it was built by Rodney Gordon, a go-to Broadway hat maker.
Santo Loquasto, the costume designer, said he considered several versions of the piece — one of 93 ladies’ hats in the musical — before the show’s lead producer suggested it might be unwise to toy with the millinery memory of Carol Channing, who originated the role on Broadway in 1964. “Scott Rudin said that if I changed it radically from what Carol Channing had worn, he felt the gay community would stone me,” said Mr. Loquasto, who received a Tony nomination for the show. “I said, ‘I guess you’re right.’”
Christine Ebersole in ‘War Paint’
This vintage straw platter hat is worn by Christine Ebersole as Elizabeth Arden. It was donated to the Goodman Theater, where the show had its premiere last year, by a “very eccentric socialite in Chicago who bought a new hat every day, according to legend,” said the show’s Tony-nominated costume designer, Catherine Zuber. The label says: “Marion Valle, 14 East 56th Street, New York.”
Patti LuPone in ‘War Paint’
This hat has a straw base accented with feathers, ribbons and a brooch. It’s worn pitched to one side, and a 68-inch drape of cream silk crepe has magnets that attach to Ms. LuPone’s dress. “The idea is that in profile she looks like she’s ready for battle,” said Ms. Zuber. In a show filled with quick changes, it helps that Ms. LuPone (as the cosmetics magnate Helena Rubinstein) knows her way around headwear. “Patti is very gifted with using hat pins quickly,” said Ms. Zuber.
“We wanted it to be beautiful and, in a good way, stupid, like: it’s a guy with a fish on his head.” That’s how the costume designer David Zinn described his inspiration for this puppet headpiece.
About a foot-and-a-half in length and 18 inches tall, the fish, named Fluffy, was the work of the show’s puppet designer, Amanda Villalobos, for a scene in which the title character’s parents force her pet goldfish to be dumped into a canal. Worn by the actor Paul Whitty for just over a minute of stage time, it’s made mostly of wire and soft foam, with a fitted band on the inside to keep it on the actor’s head. The tail and fins are made of textured plastics and organza in shades of orange. Mr. Whitty uses rods to make the fins gesture; hinges make the tail swish.
In Paula Vogel’s play about the Yiddish theater, the curled payot are clipped on each side of a wide-brimmed, felted fur hat, purchased from a Jewish hat maker in Brooklyn, according to Emily Rebholz, the show’s costume designer. The hairpieces are set on rollers every night to keep them as tight as possible; the hats (and hair) are worn in a musical number featuring both men and women. “It’s kind of a chorus line number with a costume element that ties everyone together,” said Ms. Rebholz.
Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon in ‘The Little Foxes’
Jane Greenwood, Tony-nominated for this revival, festooned this hat with metallic-colored feathers, ribbon, tulle, netting and artificial flowers. She asked the hat maker Arnold Levine to make it as dramatic as its entrance, worn in the final act by Laura Linney or Cynthia Nixon as the conniving Regina Giddens. “I said I wanted it to look like she’s coming in full sail, almost like a ship,” she said.
For the musical about the youngest Romanov princess, Linda Cho created this onion-domed piece based on the Russian kokoshnik, a traditional folk headdress. Pearls drape over the face like a curtain, and a veil cascades behind. Embedded in the piece are decorative fabrics and jewels, jewels and more jewels. “There’s a place called Earrings Plaza, a wholesaler near Koreatown,” said Ms. Cho, who is nominated for a Tony for her costumes. “All the jewelry there is between one and five dollars so I bought a ton of it and we sewed.”
Two little top-hat wearing Beanie Babies — a male holding a snowflake and a female with flowers — are attached to these furry creations. Worn by Mr. and Mrs. Cleveland, a perky comedic couple, the hats were inspired by a trip the costume designer Rob Howell took to Punxsutawney, Pa., for the yearly sighting of the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil. “There’s no big thought behind it other than wouldn’t it be fun if….” Mr. Howell said.
Lora Lee Gayer in ‘Holiday Inn’
A little purple hummingbird hovers over this 40s-era pinwheel hat, worn by the actress Lora Lee Gayer for the “Easter Parade” number in this stage adaptation of the 1942 movie musical. “I wanted something that was elegant that would frame her face, but that was simple and had some humor,” said the show’s costume designer, Alejo Vietti.
Glenn Close in ‘Sunset Boulevard’
Glenn Close wears this dramatic piece in the number “As if We Never Said Goodbye,” as Norma Desmond returns to the Paramount Studio lot after years in seclusion. The turban base is covered in off-white silk jersey, topped with a black felt hat and trimmed with burnt peacock feathers and a crystal jeweled medallion.
It was designed by Anthony Powell and built by Woody Shelp for the original Broadway production in 1994, and remade for the revival by the designer Tracy Christensen.
“This is a powerful hat,” said Ms. Christensen. “This is not soft. It’s not gentle. It’s like, look at me, I’m an important person and I am back.”
Anthony Chisholm in ‘Jitney’
Unlike most actors in this August Wilson production, Anthony Chisholm got to take his hat home after the show closed. That’s because this fedora has been his own hat since 2000, when he wore it to play Fielding, a cabdriver, in this play’s Off Broadway production from Second Stage Theater. It’s from JJ Hat Center on Fifth Avenue near 32nd Street.
Mr. Chisholm said he and the costume designer Toni-Leslie James, a Tony nominee for this production, agreed that Fielding would wear this seen-better-days hat yet again. “There’s a remnant of his past life in that hat,” said Mr. Chisholm.
Moya Angela in ‘In Transit’
What goes with a dress made out of Metrocards? A turnstile, according to the costume designer Clint Ramos. Molded of hollow plastic, it sits on a semi-spherical base with with wire appendages; hairpins held it onto the wig of the actress Moya Angela. Worn during a fashion show it’s “about glamorizing the whole M.T.A. milieu,” Mr. Ramos said.
‘Come From Away’
This sunny yellow nor’easter rain hat, common headwear for fishermen along the eastern coast of Canada, cost about $15 on Amazon, according to the costume designer Toni-Leslie James. About two inches had to be trimmed off the circumference so the audience can see the performers’ faces. They are worn during a fish-kissing number. (It’s a Newfoundland thing.)