Fit for a princess.
As Ilona Somogyi was making preparations for "Disney On Ice Presents Princess Wishes," there was "a lot of stuff going on in all different directions," she recalled. Over the course of three months in putting the new show together, "There was so much flying around ... It was all very fast."
Somogyi wasn't talking about skating around with unusual spins on an ice rink. And although one of the characters in the show, Tinker Bell, has wings, Somogyi's flying was via conventional airplane. Flying from Disney costume shop to Disney costume shop (actually, costume shops in California, Florida and New York) was part of her job as the costume designer for "Princess Wishes."
"It was a new world for me," said Somogyi, whose work as a free-lance designer has mostly been in regular theater.
The world of "Disney on Ice Presents Princess Wishes" comes to the DCU Center for seven performances beginning at 7 tonight. When Somogyi, who lives in Connecticut and is also a lecturer at the Yale School of Drama, was speaking on her cell phone during an interview last week, she was about to board a plane to San Francisco - this time to be costume designer for a production of "Three Sisters" at the Berkeley Repertory Theater.
But it's clear that she took her Disney assignment seriously. "Translating dreams into real dresses," was Somogyi's succinct definition of her role. And there was fun to be had as well. Part of her research was watching Disney classic films with her parents and grandmother and reliving her childhood - as in when she would draw designs for clothes for the characters.
"Princess Wishes" features seven famous heroines from the realm of Disney - Ariel, Cinderella, Belle, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine and Mullan. With the help of Tinker Bell, they each go in search of "their heart's fondest wish."
Practically speaking, they do so on ice skates.
"Illustrators don't have to concern themselves with the construction," Somogyi said of putting together the right costumes for the characters. It's a matter of design, choosing the right fabrics, and sometimes ingenious metalwork construction.
The long gowns some of the heroines wear in Disney films would not have worked for a world-class ice skater who has to make lots of exciting leaps and spins, Somogyi said. However, she had to create clothes that would allow the skaters to freely move while also staying true to what the audience expects the princesses to look like. And what the Disney people think they should like.
"The parameters with which you have to work are explicit. When you're doing a Disney piece you can't mess with it," she said. "There's a woman from Disney who's with us. That's fine. I just wanted the Disney characters to live as well as possible on the ice."
Somogyi said that some fabrics she had seen in use in the past were "heavy, warm and inappropriate." She created textile designs that look very home-spun but are printed and light.
"One of the fun costumes was Tinker Bell, because she has wings." However, in one sequence, Tinker Bell spins on her right leg with her left leg lifted behind her head. "But she's got wings on her back. The wings not only had to be completely open, but be so lightweight they could fold."
Somogyi had a metalsmith weld specially designed lightweight frames.
"There's a tremendous amount of support," she said of the Disney staff. "All the shops have done their thing so long. They know which Lycra lasts a long time. There are tricks of the trade I learned along the way."
Back in Somogyi's high school days, she had aspired to be an actress. "The theater bug got me pretty early," she said. "But I was also really into clothes, making clothes. When I got into college it was clear early that I was not qualified for acting." Costume design, however, was a perfect fit.
She graduated from the Yale School of Drama and has numerous New York and regional theater credits, including "Spamalot," "The Crucible," and "Art" on Broadway, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Hartford Stage, and "On the Razzle" with the Williamstown Theatre Festival. She branched out to do costume design for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus as well as "Disney On Ice."
"Because of my early acting, I'm always very keyed to the actor," she said of her approach to a theater production. "I talk to actors about their characters."
With "Princess Wishes" came a different set of wishes that Somogyi had to address concerning the cast and their costumes and dresses.
"It's making sure they feel really pretty and can do what they need to do on ice."
`Disney On Ice presents Princess Wishes'
When: 7 p.m. tonight and tomorrow; 11 a.m., 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday; and 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday.
Where: DCU Center, 50 Foster St., Worcester
How much: $18.75, $26.75, $40.75 and $55.75. Tickets can be bought at Ticketmaster.com, at Ticketmaster outlets, by calling (800) 745- 3000, and at the DCU Center box office.
CUTLINE: (1) Above, Belle finds news friends inside the Beast's castle. (2) At left, Prince Ali and Princess Jasmine get some help from the Genie. (3) Pictured on the cover are Ariel and, in inset, (4) designer Ilona Somogyi.
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