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‘Friends: A Musical Parody’: Interview with the Costume Designer David Rigler

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The actor who plays Chandler also plays a few other roles. How did you take into account quick costume changes and sourcing women’s clothing for a man his size?

Creating a set of costumes that allowed Seth Blum (Chandler) to successfully perform all of those roles was a long collaborative process that included not only Mr. Blum, but also our director, Paul Stancato, our writers, Bob and Tobly McSmith, our stage manager, Krista Swan, and our wardrobe head, Nilton Emilio.

You identify where the quick change issues may be in the script and you try to come up with a battle plan during the rehearsal process. Sometimes you are adding more dialog to provide more changing time. Sometimes you need to change the actor’s exiting and entering locations. Sometimes it is having a great plan about how the costumes are arranged and prepped backstage. Sometimes it’s just a massive amount of Velcro.

As I was shopping, I was definitely looking for garments that could be easily altered and rigged for the quick changes. Then, once we were in the fitting with Mr. Blum we actually had him try the changes in real time so we could see where the issues were, where Velcro and snaps needed to be, and what elements could be worn under other elements.

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Seth Blum as Janice (far right)

To let you in on a secret, the dress for Janice is actually worn the entire time under the Chandler costume. We got a dress that is made from a lightweight stretch fabric that allows it to be pulled and packed in a way that allows that underdressing and quick change to happen successfully both with timing and without damaging any of the garments. Getting it [on point] was simply (or not so simply) just trial and error. We had several options and variations that we tried until we came up with the winning formula.

What’s your favorite item or outfit you found/created for the show?

Without a doubt, it is Monica’s outfit in Act 1. I think I love it so much because Monica was the most difficult character to zone in on. Rachel is the popular, fashion forward one and Phoebe is the Bohemian, quirky one. Monica falls into an odd “middle child” area. I have to be honest; the costume for Monica would not be successful if it wasn’t for Lisa Graye, the actor playing Monica.  She had a very clear idea of where she wanted to take the character which lead to a great conversation as we went through the research board together. She had very specific, but polite, facial reactions to each of the images we looked at, both good and bad. She will probably be horrified that I am telling you this, but I find it hysterical and far more beneficial than any prep work that I had done… so thank you Lisa. I also love this costume because I think it gives Monica the biggest character arc, as far as costume design is concerned. In Act 2 she wears a floral dress and heels that pushes her closer to “Cougar Town.” It’s a great contrast to her romper, denim vest, and white bobo sneakers in Act 1. I describe Monica’s costume journey as “she is the caterpillar into a butterfly.”

What have you liked most about working on this show?

So much of this process has been so fun. First and foremost, I am a huge fan of the original show so it was an honor and privilege to bring these characters to life on stage. Secondly, the entire creative and producing team was a pleasure to work with and I appreciate so much that they trusted me with this task. But if I had to pick just one thing, it would be getting to work with this cast. They are all doing a fantastic job, and have embraced and embodied these characters in a way that is special and so far beyond what I had expected, I actually feel like they are the ones that have allowed me into their world to play. They embraced this costume design process in a way that was fun and exciting, and that made my job very easy. For all of that, I am eternally grateful.

The show has been extended through March 31, 2018! Book your tickets now as local fans of Central Perk have been snatching them up fast!

All photos by Russ Rowland

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