Symbolic Costuming: Stage vs. Screen

We took the kiddo to see his first live theater play today, A Year With Frog and Toad. It’s a children’s musical based on the Frog and Toad books, with each song adapted from one of the stories. The costumes in this production tended toward symbolic representation rather than realism. Frog and Toad themselves just wore old-fashioned patchwork suits with green or brown color schemes. Birds had feather boas, aviator goggles, orange tights and yellow shoes. Moles had miner’s helmets and jumpsuits.

That’s something that works well in live theater, but moviegoing audiences want realism. Or studios do. So effects budgets keep climbing, regardless of storytelling quality, as they strive for ever more detail.

The only recent movie I can think of that went for this sort of look was Into the Woods, with the wolf. But everything else in the film went for realism (even Cinderella’s frozen-in-time inner monologue of “On the Steps of the Palace”), so it just looked way out of place. On stage you’d go with it. In another movie you might. But in this case it was just Johnny Depp in a weird outfit. Gee, I’ve never seen that before.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.