UNRAVELING THE MAGIC BEHIND THE DRESS

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Brea Jones

Seminole’s Theatre Company receives a helping hand in making Cinderella’s Dress.

Zoya Wazir , Copy Editor

The Seminole High School Theater Company is currently preparing for their spring production, “Cinderella,” which is said to be one of their grandest yet. The costume department and costume designer, Sumalee Eaton, are working together to truly bring the magic of “Cinderella” to life by creating her famous “rags to riches” ball gown.

While the precise mechanics of the dress cannot be revealed to keep the magic of the transformation alive, the designers were inspired by watching several adaptations of the transforming dress, including a performance at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The entire transformation will take place on stage, without the help of any costume techs or stagehands, by a mechanism under Cinderella’s dress.

A key element in the wardrobe change that differs from the usual Broadway techniques is that the transformation happens entirely in front of the audience’s eyes. There are no extra illusionary effects such as smoke, mirrors, or other theatrics.

Former Thespian and ‘Nole, Sumalee Eaton, says, “I’ve had a lot of fun doing research over the past six months […] and watching all of the available videos over and over. I’ve even watched all of them in slow motion, knowing how the dress works, and still thought, ‘That’s incredible!’” Eaton adds, “…even once you know how the dress operates, the transformation will still boggle you.”

While the gown is not completed yet, it already contains pieces from five wedding dresses, and will eventually incorporate twenty yards of tulle and twelve layers of different materials.

Additionally, the costume department is taking inspiration from several Broadway versions of the play to truly capture the essence of the French Rococo period.

Sophomore and costume director, Anna Brooks, comments, “We are all super excited to get an opportunity to be one of the first high schools to put on this version of Cinderella [in the state].”  

This production has been dubbed one of the most extravagant that Seminole High School has ever seen, as it incorporates many Broadway-esque elements that take it beyond the usual high school play expectations.

Director Ms. Tiffany Ortiz says, “‘Beauty and the Beast’ has been the largest production to date. This will match it. The dress plays a huge part because that moment is waited upon with bated breath by our audience. It’s like the beast’s transformation. We all know it has to happen, and they expect it to, so it’s our job to make it happen.”

Eaton adds, “I think the dress is largely representative of the entire story, which is a story about transformation. The transformation scene is where your hopes and aspirations really build for [Cinderella], and the rest of the show is all about those feelings paying off.”

Also, there will be more than one dress transformation taking place on stage. Along with Cinderella’s wardrobe change, the fairy godmother will have a costume swap as well as several ensemble characters.

The costumes are also far more detailed than usual, apart from just Cinderella’s dress. For instance, the costumes must maintain an authentic look while still allowing mobility since this musical will involve a lot of dancing from each of the characters.

“Cinderella” is unlike any other production that the Seminole High School auditorium has seen before. The dress, and climax of the story, transforms “Cinderella” from a play to a true performance.

To follow the making of the dress, visit Eaton’s blog.

Eaton poses with the student who will be performing the role of "Cinderella."
Eaton poses with the student who will be performing the role of “Cinderella.” (Photo contributed by Eaton.)