It can take days to cut, dye and style one simple wig. Now imagine how long it's taken the artisans in our Wig Shop to create 60 intricate wigs for our production of Cinderella. (Spoiler: about four months and counting). We spoke to Raquel Bianchini and Danielle Richter, our Wig Master and Associate Wig Master, about building these uniquely pink wigs from scratch and how they help bring the fantasy world of Cinderella to life.
Tell us a bit about building a custom wig. Where does all that hair come from?
Raquel: Specifically for Cinderella, all of the chorus and super wigs-- some of what you're seeing here-- are made out of yak hair, which comes from the animal. We custom dye all of our wigs, even if it's just a regular human hair look and not a crazy fantasy pink look. We're always going to put roots or lowlights or highlights into a wig to make it look as natural as possible.
Danielle: There are so many different colors of pink that we're using for these. You can kind of think of it like a painting where you may have anywhere from four to seven colors in a wig. And you're trying to kind of piece it together to get as close to the fabric swatch as possible. It's a lot of making sure that every person knows which colors they're using, which wigs go to what costumes.
That’s a lot of pink...
Raquel: We may have bought out Los Angeles of pink dye.
Can you walk us through the building process from start to finish?
Danielle: So what we'll do is take something called a head wrap. Some people call it a bubble wrap. We put their hair in pin curls and then we wrap it in saran wrap and then we take tape and literally make a mold of their head. We then take measurements and pop it off, so that way we have an exact shape of their head and it is to their measurements. Then we stuff it, and build the wig on top of it using wig lace.
So all-in-all, about how long does it take to finish one wig?
Raquel: It's probably going to take about 30 hours per wig, and that’s with a few different people working on it. We need about 60 wigs for this show, 40 of them are incredibly pink. We started dying things pink in August.
That's a long time. Clearly, this production is quite the undertaking. What are some challenges you've faced preparing for it?
Danielle: One of the challenges about the show in particular is that normally we can pull wigs from stock and then adjust them according to what we need. So a lot of times we'll need, let's say 40 to 60, like dark brown wigs, which we have a lot of in-stock. We can take it and put it on a head and just do minor adjustments. But with this show, because we have 40 specifically pink wigs, with varying degrees of pink, we actually had to fully build each and every one. So, it was a lot more work than it would normally be just because it's so specific to this production.
How do the wig and costume departments work together on this?
Raquel: We work really closely with the costume department. I'm in constant contact with our costume director, as well as the designer of the show. That's really, kind of where the wig styles and looks get created, are with the costume designer. We’re always getting swatches from the costumes so we can make sure the fabric is going to work out with our wigs. I'll also talk with them about what's realistic and what might work best for our singers or best for our stage.
It’s rare that a director is also a costume designer. But that’s the case for Cinderella. What’s it been like working with Laurent Pelly?
Raquel: Laurent and I have talked quite extensively about how everything should look. His designs are gorgeous and he's very helpful in expressing where he's coming from and where he wants the look to go. He's got such a wonderful, amazing vision that we're super excited to bring to life.
What’s left to do between now opening night?
Danielle: We have a handful of wigs left to build specifically for the principals. We have only a few of the choristers and supers left, so that's great. So it's mostly finessing, and then styling, which is the fun part.
Want to see their work in action? Get your ticket for Cinderella here.