Monday, February 20, 2017

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

"Curtain Up" Exhibition at NYPL Lincoln Center -- A New Spin on A Tale of Two Cities?

Lion King display
All photos Laurel Marcus
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Since London (where LFW will soon be wrapping up) has been called a "mirror-world" of New York City, it makes sense that the current exhibition (through June 30) at The New York Public Library For The Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, "Curtain Up: Celebrating The Last 40 Years of Theatre in New York & London" focuses on long-running shows that have won (or been nominated for) awards in both cities. The Tony awards are currently in their 70th year while the Olivier's are in their 40th, making this a good time to compare and contrast the two symbiotic theatre districts: Broadway and the West End. A Tom Piper "street map" combining elements of the two, is underfoot as you enter the space.

Costumes for "Chicago" 1997

Through costumes, costume sketches, set design models, prompt scripts, video clips and other interesting objects, tales of some of the great productions of our collective consciousness are illustrated. The exhibition was co-curated by NYPL and the Victoria and Albert Museum, in partnership with the Society of London Theatre.

Model of Stage for "Matilda"

The exhibition traces elements of elaborate versus more simple set design, the invention of Tharon Musser's digital automated lighting design, as well as the rise and fall of the British "mega-musical." After the elaborate excesses of many of the '70s and '80s spectacles, the '90's trend was towards a more "pared-down style of presentation, with minimal scenery," according to Tony Kushner's notes of "Angels in America."

Costume for Queen Elizabeth II in "The Audience"

Some of the highlights: if you are a fan of "A Chorus Line," you will not want to miss the hall of mirrors displaying the top hats worn in the finale along with the original video next to a poster of its iconic stars director/writer/choreographer/dancer Michael Bennett and Donna McKechnie.For "Phantom of the Opera" buffs,

Costume designs for "The Phantom at the Opera" 1986

Set and Costume Designer Maria Bjornson's costume sketches are on display as well as a life-size Phantom costumed as the masked Red Death, worn by actor/comedian Michael Crawford on both sides of the Atlantic. Who could forget the iconic effects including the crashing of the huge theatre chandelier or the underground lake boat ride? -- all made possible by a design budget of close to $1.2 million.

 Bob Gaudio "Dawn" from "Jersey Boys" &  Lola's "Kinky Boots"

The ballet costume worn by Rudolph Nureyev in Romeo and Juliet at the 1977 London Festival Ballet, which toured to the Metropolitan Opera House here can be viewed just a few steps away from Lola's "Kinky Boots" (2013). The red boots which form the letter "K" in the show's official logo have become as iconic as the white mask used for "Phantom of the Opera."From a male "Swan Lake" dancer's costume to costume design sketches for Ann Reinking as Roxie Hart in her 1996 appearance in "Chicago," from Judi Dench's attire in 1987's "Antony and Cleopatra," to a large room of "Lion King" costumes, the wearable items alone run the gamut of theatrical genres.

Suspended from the ceiling are Elphaba from the 2003 musical "Wicked" and Mary Poppins in her bright red coat which she wears for the "Step in Time" London rooftops scene, as she did in the Disney movie.

Jeff Hamlin

Interestingly, the day that I visited happened to be when Jeff Hamlin (original stage manager for "A Chorus Line" as well as "South Pacific," "Dreamgirls," "War Horse" and many other shows) was giving a talk. Hamlin, who had a background in Shakespeare festivals and originally wanted to direct, "dished" a bit on working with/being hired by Michael Bennett ("he liked that I was so buttoned down"), as well as composer Marvin Hamlisch ("In rehearsals he would do riffs on the theme song 'One' as it would be played by Tchaikovsky, Mozart or Bach"). He spoke of the many luminaries who frequented the audience -- names like Katharine Hepburn, Raquel Welch, Nureyev, even Mayor LaGuardia attended the show -- often sitting in the aisles.

Ballet costume for Rudolph Nureyev in "Romeo & Juliet" 1977

As far as humorous tidbits he recounted a tale from when the musical was in its first previews at the Newman Theatre (before it moved to the Shubert). Upon noticing that there was rumbling underground train noise during an important soliloquy, Bennett asked Hamlin to please get them to change the train schedule. "I wasn't about senior enough to tell him 'you're living in a fool's paradise,'" said Hamlin. He recalled Bennett's preferred rehearsal attire -- jeans, white tennis shoes, football jersey and baseball cap, which is how he remembers him now.

Red Death costume designed for "The Phantom of the Opera" 1986

Hamlin, who later became production manager, spoke of the logistical struggle of trying to recreate the perfectly timed computerized lighting system (the first of its kind) when the production moved to the Shubert. "We had to push through offices on the second floor, known as the mummy room," he said. What was uncovered there was fantastic: original documents signed by George Cohan, Erte costumes, letters from the Shubert to chorines -- many of which Hamlin ended up revisiting when they magically appeared at the Schubert in L.A. on one of his visits out there.

Show posters

Then there was the time the flu hit the Chorus Line cast, which unfortunately lacked sufficient understudies. Right before the performance the long list of who was substituting for who was read however the main characters Sheila and Cassie shared only one understudy. "They had to make an announcement that the role of Sheila was to be absorbed by others, which we did by having various castmates deliver her lines."

After all, the show must go on...

- Laurel Marcus

Friday, February 17, 2017

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Celebrates Butts, Boobs and Thighs

Entrance to party
All photos: Lieba Nesis
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Sports Illustrated (SI) held its annual Swimsuit Issue celebration at 415 Fifth Avenue on Thursday February 16, 2017 with the red carpet beginning at 6 PM. Unlike most other magazines which only feature stick thin models Sports Illustrated celebrates women of all shapes and sizes. Tonight was filled with luminaries including: Christie Brinkley, Hannah Jeter, Kate Upton, John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, Nick Cannon, Hailey Clauson and many of the SI models.

Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, Christie Brinkley and Aly Raisman

Christie Brinkley, in a bright red jumpsuit, was the star of the evening as she continues to defy gravity with her beautiful body and face belying her 63 years of age.  She was accompanied by her daughters Sailor Cook and Alexa Ray Joel who posed patiently for pictures.

Christie Brinkley's daughters Alexa Ray Joel and Sailor Cook

Alexa was initially freaked out at the thought of posing in a bathing suit but tonight she was ebullient - - exhibiting the professionalism of a seasoned model. As Christie made her way through the crowd I kept hearing all the men commenting, "man I can't believe she's like in her 60's."

Danielle Herrington and Comic Rip Michaels

There were so many beautiful girls in attendance it was hard to differentiate who was a model a sentiment reiterated by comedian Rip Michaels who said he really enjoyed seeing all the beautiful women who were non-models.  Rip also commented he liked the open bar since the only time a black man gets free drinks is at a funeral.  Rip's boss is Nick Cannon and I have a feeling we will be seeing more of Rip in the future.

Vita Sidorkina

I spoke to Russian model Vita Sidorkina who found out two weeks before they were shooting that she would be featured in the magazine. Vita was wearing a plunging Carmen Marc Valvo dress and said she has dreamt of this moment since she arrived in the United States five years ago.

Sports Illustrated models with their pictures McKenna Berkley and Anna de Paula

Similarly, first time SI model McKenna Berkley told me she has wanted to be in the magazine since the age of 13-even voting for Rookie of the Year at this young age. McKenna appears in body paint which took twelve hours to apply and followed a healthy diet for her big debut. Danielle Herrington, another first time model, told me she loves that SI pays homage to women with butts, boobs and thighs. Herrington said she loves her curves and doesn't want to lose them.

Hailey Clauson

As I made my way through the crowd I spotted Chrissy Teigen whose husband John Legend was grabbing her lovingly. Teigen gave birth to daughter Luna nine months ago and appears in this month's issue in fabulous form.

Hannah Jeter and Plus Size Model Ashley Graham

Hannah Jeter, who is currently pregnant, came to the party late wearing a sexy cutout sequined gown and appearing even more luminous than I remember. Unlike Victoria's Secret where the models engage in starvation and grueling workout regimes Sports Illustrated celebrates a more bodacious body as evidenced by third time cover girl Kate Upton. Upton is an absolute beauty and tonight she was socializing in the corner in a relatively demure black shirt and skirt.

Plus Size SI model Hunter McGrady and Cover Girl Kate Upton

While some were hoping for a more unconventional choice the men love Kate and there is no way around it. Upton was seriously conversing with size 16 model Hunter Hunter McGrady who told me enormous strides were being made in the fashion industry with full figured Ashley Graham appearing for the first time yesterday in a Michael Kors fashion show. Hunter was hopeful that Victoria's Secret would get on the plus size bandwagon and said she would love to model for them. Even Hunter hired a trainer three months before her SI shoot in order to tone her curves but likes her body the way it is.

Tennis player Genie Bouchard, Cover Girl Kate Upton, and Tennis Player Heidi Eltabakh

Six time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman who appears in the issue said it's "such an empowering feeling to be at a photo shoot and know your body's not perfect, that you have insecurities just like everyone else." And that's the point of Sports Illustrated-it celebrates the female body and what it can accomplish despite the fact that it might not fit the modeling industry's standard of perfection.

- Lieba Nesis

Thursday, February 16, 2017

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

Fashion Journal: Pier 59 Where Are You?

Photo: Laurel Marcus

To say that I've been laying low this NYFW would be like saying Manhattanites wear a lot of black. Due to inclement weather, inability to come up with a suitable outfit for said weather, and/or the kind of quality invites that would prompt me to haul myself across (and down) town, I've more or less sat this one out. Valentine's Day was my most productive jaunt -- I attended a whopping two shows and a presentation -- which provided me with a microcosm of the whole NYFW experience.

Freida Rothman & Numan Ataker
Photo by Patrick McMullan

I spent the afternoon at Pier 59 -- I had only been once before and hadn't taken time to explore. It's actually a very civilized venue complete with a palm tree festooned bar/restaurant, lounge area, outdoor deck, and a decent ladies room (beats the Lincoln Center tent situation, at least). The designer I had come to see, John Paul Ataker was not initially on my radar, however jewelry designer Freida Rothman, who I've become acquainted with, was supplying/styling all the jewelry including 35 nose stud rings for each of the models (don't worry -- they were glued on, not pierced) making it a must see.

Freida (a FGI Rising Star nominee) began her own business in 2010 -- she basically grew up in the family jewelry business and wished to put her own stamp on affordable luxury jewelry and accessories, which she is now turning into a lifestyle brand complete with leather goods and sunglasses.

Runway photo of a design by Numan Ataker with jewelry by Freida Rothman
Photo: Patrick McMullan

Her pieces are crafted of precious sterling silver metals and 14k gold vermeil with collections entitled "Lattice Motif," and "Fleur Bloom," while her rose gold collection is called "Rose D'Or." The two-tone metals and sophisticated European look to her stackable bangles, rings, earrings and necklaces were the perfect complement to the Turkish designer Numan Ataker's Fall/Winter 2017 collection, which paid homage to the beauty and strength of the women of Yazidi with an interpretation of how they would dress for a modern progressive culture.

Jewelry by Freida Rothman

Ataker's line is named after his father and his 9-year-old son who share the name John Paul. This was a stunning collection of rich textiles including leather, velvet, faux fur trimmings on organza, jacquards, brocades, feathers and embossing, in rich dark colors (and a few white bridal-ish gowns) with a touch of metallic. Ataker is known for his superb tailoring and I definitely found myself coveting several of the brocade black and gold suits, as well as the gold 3-D cocktail dress and the longer, velvet gown version.

Marla Maples
Photo: Laurel Marcus

In honor of Valentine's Day, red roses were placed on the seats and notables, including Olivia Culpo in a winter white pants suit and Marla Maples in a black velvet one, were in attendance. After this very satisfying half hour of beauty, I ventured over to Chelsea Market for lunch and to 14th Street to self-beautify a bit with a manicure. Arriving back early for the 5PM presentation of Carmen Marc Valvo, I decided to pop in at Yandy -- a runway show for online, modestly priced, but far from modest (read racy) swimsuit/ lingerie/costumes (

Photo: Laurel Marcus

The venue was about half empty -- but leave it to me to sit second row behind a few men in business suits who appeared to have something to do with either the company or the models. They whooped, hollered and catcalled the bare-cheeked/ cleavage-alicious models who were "killing it" on the runway. "These are great suits!" one remarked -- I'm fairly sure it was not the suit he was admiring. It's pretty unusual to feel like you've walked into a bachelor party during fashion week but this was close.

Photo: Laurel Marcus

Most upsetting: the models or their handlers had gotten super sloppy with the self-tanner -- you could see telltale streaks all over the white or light colored swimsuits -- yecchh! Not to body shame anyone but a few of these models (who were brought in from agencies in Arizona and LA and were shall we say, a bit curvier than the stick insects one sees in New York) had some serious wiggly "junk in the trunk" happening.

Carmen Marc Valvo
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Now, back to the world of fashion, rather than tackiness, I queued up for the Carmen Marc Valvo presentation. I wondered if it was in fact "Take your daughter to NYFW Day" as a woman behind me counseled her aspiring actor/model school-age sweetie to "soak it all in because who knows when you'll get to see this again." Alec Baldwin breezed past us as he sauntered towards the backstage area, carrying his three-year-old daughter also named Carmen.   Mom-of-the-year called out "Hi Alec!'

Photo: New York Magazine "The Cut"

In other years CMV has done runway shows which I prefer -- this presentation was majorly overbooked and disorganized, unfortunately, the nature of the beast. Fighting my claustrophobia I grabbed a flute of Prosecco to ease the pain.  The plus side of a crowd like this is that it provides an opportunity to meet fellow fashion folk -- basically you're unable to avoid them -- wanting to compare notes on which shows you've seen. I heard tales -- the trials and tribulations of the Oscar/Monse show (the curtain never opened on one side, making the unlucky photographers on that side unable to get their shots), as well as the Alice + Olivia presentation (apparently it's the same old, same old aesthetic which is, according to some, due for a refresh).

Photo: Laurel Marcus

When I finally fought my way up to the stage, it was quite the design departure as I was not expecting the loose Fortuny-esque pleated, unstructured gowns (on 10-ft tall models), in mostly solid colors of fuchsia, black, lavender and rust. I had briefly caught a glimpse of a model wearing a more exciting striped trench style, but she had already been whisked away. In addition to the stage where the models were posing, one side of the room featured a photographer's scrim with a wind machine where they took turns in front of the camera. The end product, emblazoned with the designer's name underneath resembled a publicity still or advertisement, which was then projected on the back wall.

When I was in spitting distance of Mr. Valvo I heard someone informing him that Vogue and WWD were there. Other attendees included Katie Couric and Vanessa Williams, although I didn't see either of them. There was someone in some sort of an LED lit faux fur. I noticed that Teri Agins and I both favored Giuseppe Zanotti wedge sneakers -- mine were of a metallic silver snake, hers army green suede.

Photo: Laurel Marcus

As I was turning to leave, I saw a small crowd gathered around two tiny white, actual fur puffballs. They had pink tongues and were clad diva style in sunglasses and jogging suits, whilst being held, admired and flash photographed (good thing they had eye protection to fight the glare)! Their owner proffered an itty bitty square card and told me I could find them on Instagram @zuzuswag ( because... of course. Perhaps it's time for an unofficial campaign tagline: "NYFW: Drag Your Daughters! Drag Your Dogs!"

- Laurel Marcus