His assignment: Design 14 costumes for the pop superstar to wear for her lavish comeback tour — whose name, “Dressed to Kill,” promises killer costumes.
And his time frame: only six weeks.
“It was a big task, I must say,” costume designer Durrant, 67, said in a phone interview from London with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, ahead of the Dressed to Kill tour’s stop Friday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.”Coming up with 14 ideas for Cher is not the easiest thing to do. She has done everything…. I don’t think I had a day off, and I was very, very tired by the time we opened.”
It was a gig that was a lifetime in the making. Bitten by the theater bug when he was a child (actor Alan Rickman was a classmate), Durrant realized he was a terrible actor, but he was good at drawing and at 13 aspired to be a costume designer.
After 25 years of professional work, largely for theater productions, he met Cher’s choreographer in 1994 while working on the West End musical “Copacabana.”
“For (Cher’s) Farewell tour (from 2002 to 2005), I was asked to do the dancers’ costumes,” Durrant said. “At one point when I was doing a fitting, I told Cher, ‘When I first started in this business, I did plays by Shakespeare, Ibsen, (George Bernard) Shaw.’ She said, ‘Were all those costumes covered in beads, too?'”
Aside from one outfit, Cher’s costumes weren’t Durrant’s work, but Mackie’s, practically her sole designer since 1972. Mackie’s flamboyant and often shimmering ensembles — most famously exemplified by the ornate black headdress and showgirl-inspired two-piece Cher wore at the 1986 Oscars — were nearly as responsible for her superstar status as the music itself. And they continue to inspire: London’s the Independent just published an article about Cher’s influence on new runway fashions, and Miley Cyrus wears vintage Mackie pieces on her current Bangerz tour.
“Bob is a great showman, and Cher is a great showman,” Durrant said. “And neither of them are afraid of going out on a limb, but both of them are superb craftsmen in their own way.”
So when Mackie dropped out of “Dressed to Kill” at the last minute (“My professional and business commitments were just too great,” he told US Weekly), Cher was so distraught, she took to Twitter to tell fans she was “crying” and that her “heart was broken.” Then the gig went to Durrant, who had already been designing the dancers’ outfits.
“My first thought was panic,” Durrant confessed. “Bob has been dressing that body for 40 years. He knows that body very well…. We were all starting from scratch, really, which is a bit frightening.”
Beyond filling Mackie’s massive shoes on a limited timetable, Durrant was expected to top him.
“I remember meeting Cher and her manager and asking, ‘Why 14 (outfits)? The Farewell tour only had 11,'” Durrant recalled. “Cher said, ‘You think I’m going to have less?'”
Between Cher and her backup dancers, the show has a whopping 150 costumes, with minimal duplicates.
“I think I probably did 500 drawings,” Durrant said. “Just for her opening outfit, I did 10 or 11 different headdresses…. I thought there weren’t enough beaders in Los Angeles to do this show. We were really up to the last minute. It was frightening.”
At least Durrant had four assistants, “which is more than I’ve ever had on anything,” he said. “And he had plenty of direct and honest input from Cher herself.
“It’s her taste that you’re working to all the time. Everything that is on that stage has been passed by her personally,” Durrant said. “She has a very left-field way of looking at things, which is great fun. She stretches you. She doesn’t hold back. She’s always looking for how to make it more interesting and more extraordinary.”
Despite incredible challenges, Durrant felt he ended up with some extraordinary pieces. Cher’s outfit for the encore was the most difficult to make.
“I had this idea of making a very complicated cut,” Durrant said. “It’s meant to look like a long skirt that drapes in front, and frankly, what I drew fabric doesn’t want to do,” Durrant said. “We tried various fabrics, and the only fabric that worked was a double silk crepe. It’s very heavy and it looks nice when you drape it, but it’s an unusual fabric to use for a show like that…. It did cause the cutter nightmares.”
While Durrant said he’s proud of everything he did, his variation on Mackie’s American Indian-inspired outfit for “Half-Breed” stands out.
“Bob’s design had every color under the sun, but (for ‘Dressed to Kill’) the whole scene is meant to be a 1920s circus sideshow,… and Cher wanted it all to look faded,” Durrant said. “So I used washed-out pinks and washed-out greens, these very passive colors. Really, it’s a bit of a shock when you see that costume in those colors. But I think it’s rather successful.”
As are all of Durrant’s designs, many critics have said.
“The reviews have all been lovely, and they’ve all mentioned the costumes, so presumably I haven’t been a complete disaster,” he said.
Source – JS Online