The job of a costume designer can be compared to playing goaltender in hockey, the constant attention to detail, split second decisions, and working well with the entire team, something Julie Chevan has been doing for the Amity Theater Department since 2007 when Rob and Andrea Kennedy took over the program.
Chevan has been planning for this musical production since last summer and after seeing Tarzan on Broadway, she decided to do something different with the ape costumes and the design works, giving the actors the ability to move and dance, jump and spin without sweating to death under the heat of the stage lights.
The heaviest costume is worn by last year’s award-winning actor Kahari Blue who plays Kerchak the silverback Gorilla. The lightest costume, a loincloth, worn by newcomer Ryan Kennedy — Young Tarzan.
Chevan, her assistant Brenda Bert, and a team of student seamstresses have been working on the costumes since last fall. The costume department is a repurposed locker room down a hallway across from the band room. This is where they created 45 costumes for Tarzan.
On Sunday, the effects company that makes Tarzan swing, butterflies float, Tarzan’a parents swim and Sabor the Leopard leap introduced the safety harnesses that these actors have to wear, which also meant making changes to the costumes to accommodate them.
Chevan, Bert and a couple of students from the costume department attend every rehearsal just in case someone needs something.
When you see Tarzan, pay attention to the costumes and remember that each one was custom designed for every actor. There are 10 Victorian outfits that are rentals (worn by 6 actors). But there is ONE dress made for Jane (Addie Robbins) just for the curtain call that you will see for about 15 seconds to a minute. Chevan says the dress is “very special and well worth it.”
Chevan has been nominated numerous times for best costume design in the CT High School Musical Theater Awards and has one CHSMTA win under her wing for Chicago in 2011.