The musical “Beauty & the Beast” starts out with a Prologue telling the tale of how the Prince was transformed into the hideous Beast. The Narrator describes the old witch coming to the door, offering a rose in exchange for shelter from the night, and being turned away by the Prince. She then transforms into a beautiful Enchantress, curses the Prince, gives him the Enchanted Rose and the curtain opens and the story begins.
There are many ways to do this opening . . .from as simple as a voice-over narration with a projected rose to a complex transformation complete with special effects, lighting and costumes.
Ours was done as a psuedo-ballet. The old hag came out, did her rose bit, and transformed into a beautiful maiden. She danced off stage while the Prince did a simple transformation into the Beast. She then re-appeared in a Rose dress, did a little dance, and as the narrator spoke of the last petal falling, she removed a petal from her skirt and dropped it to the floor in front of the Beast before dancing off stage. (She then did another quick change to return as a Silly Girl . . but that’s another story).
For the Rose costume, we started with a short party dress in a pink color. The skirt was quite flared and twirly, and had a built-in petticoat. It was actually finding this dress at a thrift store that was the inspiration for our vision of the Narration sequence.
I added two layers of chiffon, in a darker pink and red. I staggered the lengths of the three layers. In order to get them so that they would flare out the same when she twirled, I cut a pattern off of the original skirt. I kept the circumference at the bottom of the tiers the same, and shortened the length of the layers. Since she would be twirling and the underside (wrong side) of the layers would potentially show (and to prevent raveling) I constructed the layers with french seams. To give the edge body, I zig-zagged the heaviest gauge fishing line I could get to the edge of the skirt. This actually makes a really nice edge which is useful for all sorts of things. It is particularly nice on tulle.
The idea behind this costume was that it was the personification of the rose, so I made a waist belt with attached petals. I made the outside of the petals velvet with a sparkly fabric on the inside. I also edged these with fishing line to give them some body. These were sewn to the waistband, with one of them attached with velcro so that it was removable (I would use magnets if I did it again to avoid the tell-tale “rip” of the velcro). This worked out really well . . . and make for a fun interpretation of this section of the show.
To finish off the outfit, I made green sparkly shorts out of a spandex fabric. I cut the pattern off of a pair of shorts the cast member already owned.
The other costumes in this segment were fairly simple. The Old Woman wore a black cape and a headband of long gray hair that was made by gluing yarn to a headband. If I were doing this again, since this scene was done in front of a black curtain, I would have made her cape a different color. I actually have seen some that look like they are made of a mass of rags, and I prefer that look to what we did. The Enchantress dress was made in a stylized cross between a dance dress and a square-necked historical gown. It was reconstructed with velcro at the shoulder and side so that it could be quickly removed for the quick change needed for the same cast member to re-emerge moments later as the Rose.
The Prince transformed into the Beast by removing his crown and donning a simple Venetian style mask that was covered in brown fur. The same cast member was used for both the Prince and the Beast, so this limited what could be done in terms of the Transformation, both at the beginning of the show and the end of the show.
Evaluation: The biggest error I made in costuming this scene was not taking into account the black curtain. The Prince, Old Woman and Enchantress all “blend” into the curtain as they are dressed in black. The scene itself is a little rough, but, time ran out during rehearsals. I would have liked a little more costume drama as he transformed into the Beast. The furry Venetian mask is not very noticeable. A furry hood might have been more effective. Overall I was pleased with the Rose Dress. She did lose the petal one night when she removed the Enchantress dress, which was unfortunate.
The Magic Mirror is discussed here: Magic Mirror
The Prince cape is discussed here: Prince cape