“Be Our Guest” is one of the BPN’s as I like to call them (Big Production Numbers) in “Beauty and the Beast”.
How do you turn people into silverware? And dance? On a budget? Seriously?
The range of ideas is vast and there are many different interpretations, varying in complexity, cost and function. One show I attended simply used cardboard top hats with silverware attached to them, with the cast members wearing a formal looking black ensemble with a vest. Other ideas include sandwich board costumes, a tunic with the image of silverware, or three-dimensional hats designed to look like the ends of silverware.
I wanted to have large silverware that strapped onto the backs of the cast members. After lots of thinking, researching and prototypes, what we ended up using was much easier to make than I had thought.
The basic silverware shape was cut out of thin board (luan). Some of the boards have warped and bent a bit over time, but, they worked. One also cracked during a rehearsal , but, it was patched with some spare wood, glue, and metallic gold duct tape and has held up well. Good ole duct tape! There was a bunny hop dance move in the choreography . . and all that bouncing was a bit hard on them . . . and let’s face it, some people bounce harder than others 🙂
We had wooden knives, forks & spoons. Another school borrowed our costumes and wouldn’t use the knives . . since knives aren’t allowed on school property. I guess that IS adhering strictly to policy, but . . . .
The pieces of wood were spray painted metallic gold on both sides. The edges were glittered using modge podge applied with a paint brush, and then glitter. This was then given several coats of spray on sealer to keep the glitter from shedding. If I were going to do this today I would not use glue on glitter. I would either buy sheets of glitter “leather” (found at craft stores like Hobby Lobby for about $1.50 for an 8.5 x 11″ piece) OR ideally, I would get some gold heat press glitter and cut strips and iron it on to the shapes. I love heat press glitter! (Try and find an accommodating screen print shop that will sell you some off their bulk rolls or save you the waste from weeding designs. You can also look for a source by the yard . . that is much cheaper than the sheets you can buy at craft stores.
So . . that part was all fine, but, the big question remained: how do you attach the silverware pieces to the cast members?
My solution was to use play plastic armor that I found at the Dollar Tree store.
It was designed to go on the front of a child, but we flipped it around and used it on the back. This provided the support for the wooden shapes. Four holes were drilled in the wood, and they were attached with small screws. The plastic armor came with straps so there were four small pre-made holes, two on the top and two on the sides, which were used for attaching new straps with loops (sewn in) and zip ties. They were spray painted white so that they were “hidden” against the white shirts.
The straps were made of nylon strapping/webbing and a four way buckle.
The torso portion (over the shoulder) was adjustable with velcro.
The side pieces were adjustable through the buckle itself. The buckles were black, which I originally worried would be objectionable on the white shirts, but, they were not, especially from a distance and with all that was going on in that scene.
The base costume was a black and white “servant” type outfit. The girls had matching black satin skirts, and assorted white blouses. The guys wore black pants and white shirts. These were accented with gold accessories: aprons for the girls and bowties & cummberbunds for the guys. These were sewn out of the same miserable fabric with metallic squares that was used for the Mrs. Potts costume. I hate that fabric as it gums up the sewing machine needle. In addition, over time the squares have fallen off. Today I would use a stretch sequin fabric. I made a mistake and used a lighter weight less expensive satin for the skirts, and they clung like crazy, so all the girls had petticoats under them.
The cast members also had a gold charger plate that we drilled holes into and attached a piece of heavy non-roll elastic to with small screws. The screws were covered with a small piece of felt and hot glue so that they didn’t scratch when they were stacked. These were cheap chargers from a Dollar Store.
The plates were made with the same cream satin that was used for the napkin dresses and the Mrs. Potts costume. The base of the plate was a double thickness circle of fabric. A casing made from the gold metallic fabric was sewn along the outside edge. The round shape was created by threading pool noodles (two per plate) into the casing (use a plastic bag to help insert them). A thin board was inserted into a casing sewn in the layers of the plate shaped pieces of fabric, and straps were stapled to the board.
These ended up being medium sized plates . . . but it worked well for them to go up and down the staircase.
The napkin dresses are supposed to look like a napkin with a napkin ring around it. The borders of the center gold are made with the waste edges of the fabric lightly stuffed. The dress is a fairly simple shift dress. The bottom has a handkerchief hem with a gold border. If your Director is planning a Can-Can dance by the napkins, I wouldn’t pick this style. Early in my research of costume images I had seen this style of dress and it appealed to me . . however, if I were to do it again, I would not make this style of dress.
SALT & PEPPER
The Salt & Pepper were made out of felt. The bottom had a casing into which lightweight boning was threaded to give it a bit of a bell shape. The letters “S” & “P” were appliqued on the front and outlined with sequins. They wore matching chef hats. We had a white one, and the black one was made by gathering a circle of fabric to a rectangle. You can find instructions online.
The Whisk was a really cool costume. The top part that made the beaters was formed out of long bamboo plant stakes. The ones I found actually were in loop shapes, so they had a bit of a natural curve at the top. I cut them apart, and taped boning between the two pieces. These long loops were wrapped in irridescent duct tape . . which was more or less successful. I cut strips of tape in 1/2 lengthwise, and where these short strips attach they tend to want to unstick. There are some newer thin scrapbooking glitter tapes available now that might work better. I had two of these long loops. I made two circles of felt that attached with velcro over the top of the loops where they intersected over her head to hold them in place.
I made a waist band out of some scrap fabric, layered with the silver sparkle fabric. I sewed in channels that the four wisk ends slid into. The waistband velcro’d shut in the back.
To finish off the outfit I made a petticoat out of the left-over underskirt of a dress edged with some lace. I added a silver circle skirt on top, and a silver bow in her hair. A white lace blouse finished off the outfit.
In this picture, the model is just holding the skirt in front of the petticoat.
We also made a rug. That costume was basically a double square of fabric with a slit in the top for the head, and two slits on the side for hands. This was made out of a heavy upholstery fabric and had some fun thick fringe. Unfortunately, this made the costume VERY heavy. I have since attended a performance of BATB and the rug costume was made out of a stretchy fabric, more like a square morph suit. It was much more flexible and lent to movement better than our creation.
As with any “BPN”, it is important to keep in mind the overall “look” that is your goal. The choice to glitter the silverware, and use the metallic gold to accent the black & white costumes, really made for a “WOW” look onstage. There are a few things I would tweak . . but overall, I was very happy with this costume set.