Friday, July 23, 2010

Inside Elton's Wardrobe

Jeanne Smallwood is still “walking on air” this week after being chosen as one of two Prince George wardrobe assistants for Elton John’s concert Friday at the CN Centre. First, Smallwood had to agree to keep it a secret.

“We weren’t allowed to say anything before the show. We were sworn to secrecy about the whole thing. Now that it’s over, I’m still about two feet above the ground and it is an experience I will remember forever,” she said.

Smallwood designs and sews costumes and fashion accessories for Excalibur Theatre Arts Company. She and another talented seamstress, Stephanie Larsen, who works her magic with Theatre North West, were contacted several weeks ago and asked if they would be wardrobe assistants for the local show. Would they? Both jumped at the chance.

“I was just so excited. When I first saw Elton John’s dressing room it was just amazing. There was about 25 boxes of shoes, some hand cut and sewn out of suede. He had roses in small vases on the tables, and there was this big bureau with labels from cities where he’d performed all over the world.”

Best of all, she said, were the costumes.

“There were so many incredibly beautiful pieces. There were 40 tuxedos in themes from his popular songs like Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and I’m Still Standing. The one from the Lion King theme had monkeys all down the arms and the one he wore in Prince George with the Crocodile Rock theme had a sequined crocodile with his (Elton John’s) head coming out of the mouth. The costumes were designed for him by Yohji Yamamoto of Japan.”

The local wardrobe mistresses took care of steaming clothes to perfection, (including clothes worn onstage by Elton John’s band members), sewing and repairing tears and replacing buttons.

“Usually we would take care of wardrobe changes but he had the same outfit on all during the show, so we didn’t have to worry about that. We were there to make sure there were no problems with wardrobe. Everything had to be perfect – Elton John is very precise.”

As an added thrill, she got to meet Elton John’s four-legged companions, his two cocker spaniels. “They were really cute.”

Smallwood said she was struck by the legendary singer-songwriter’s well known penchant for beautiful things and his sense of glamour and style. And she loved feasting her eyes on the luxury and opulence that accompanies the superstar wherever he goes.

“I heard (from Elton’s staff) that each of his (designer) tuxedos are worth about $15,000. Everything of his was so pristine. So perfect. I saw about 100 pairs of sunglasses neatly laid out on a table and in every colour of the rainbow. He chose ones with blue lenses for our Prince George show. And there were bottles of all different kinds of cologne. It took six trailers to hold his stuff. His make-up mirror – we lifted it from the truck – is just beautiful and it must have weighed over 100 pounds.”

However if Elton John’s mirror was heavy, Smallwood says it will take her a while before her light-headedness goes away.

“This was a thrill of a lifetime, one that I will remember forever. I even got a special pass to watch the show and I had lunch with his limousine chauffeur. Just being in the presence of such an amazing artistic talent as Elton John is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me in my career.”


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