We all know costume changes can pose a world of problems in theatre and, more often than not, we manage to work together to find a way to handle them seamlessly. But sometimes those changes can go wrong. Very wrong. Here are some of the funniest costume change mishaps from my time in theatre.
The one with the forgotten scene
For some reason this has happened more than once, which may say something about my memory skills under pressure. One particularly excellent moment was in Sweeney Todd. I was playing the beggar woman and knew that I had a quick costume change into a big dress coming up. I did my scene before and ran to the changing room, only to hear midway through getting undressed a bit of music I recognised…
Music that involved me being in my original costume onstage in the next 30 seconds…
There was no time to put my clothes back on so, out of breath and with panic behind the eyes, I legged it to the stage and performed the scene I’d completely forgotten about in some loose fitting Victorian undergarments. Running back to the changing room after the scene I cursed my memory skills and subsequently never missed that scene again.
Similar things have happened to other performers I’ve worked with over the years to varying degrees, some making it back to the stage for the forgotten scene in some rather amusing outfits!
The one with the hairy mole
For some bizarre reason I was once cast as Grandma Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof. Much hilarity unfolded making me up, including adding a hairy mole to the ensemble, which got hairier as the shows went on. Problem was after the dream sequence I then had a quick change back to a young female chorus member. I always wonder if we managed to get all the hair off…
The one with the koala
This actually involved a forgotten scene where a lovely young lady was playing a mother and once her scenes were finished she had to change into a koala bear outfit. I also wore one of these outfits - it involved a very large headpiece with massive ears and a furry leotard. Unfortunately one evening the mother forgot she had one more scene to do and was getting changed into her koala outfit when we heard her cue line over the speakers. Much face-palming occurred.
The one with the tucking
Quick changes often mean you just want to chuck on those clothes as quickly as possible and get on stage. You might not do any final checks before going on, but sometimes it turns out you really should. A group of us had to get into some rather short farmgirl dresses and do a dance in Guys and Dolls. You know the one - Bushel and a Peck. Cute.
The next day the costume ladies politely advised us that before we go on we might need to double check that everything is ‘tucked in’ properly. To this day we don’t know who they were referring to, but we sure as hell kept our eye on it from then on!
The one with the sewing incident
Whilst this one is not technically a costume change, it certainly made it difficult for the performer to change after the scene. During a lovely song in Jekyll and Hyde, a friend of mine was doing some cross stitch on stage. Only did she realise at the end of the song that she had in fact managed to sew the cross stitch embroidery to the sleeve of her dress. This happened quite a few years ago but it still makes me laugh when I think back to it now.
The one with the flying wig
Sometimes with a costume change if you’re wearing a wig it can get jostled, slowly becoming looser and looser as time goes on. A friend of mine wore one in Thoroughly Modern Millie to play Mrs Meers. During her big solo number she flicked her head back and her wig flew off on stage.
Stood there in just a wig cap, she proceeded to pick up that wig and finished the song swinging it around her head. That’s performers for you!
At the time costume mishaps seem like the end of the world. The worst thing ever. The most embarrassing moment of your life. But in the years to come you will simply look back and laugh about the whole thing. Have you got any funny costume mishaps to share?