Julie O’Brien’s job as head of wardrobe is much more than just looking after the 1,000 costumes worn on the set of the Cirque du Soleil production Crystal.
While some of the performers will be changing costumes as many as three or four times during the course of a show, but it is also the wigs and in particular the shoes that can be the biggest challenge for her team of four.
“The thing is we have regular acrobats and ice skaters so we have and the acrobats they still do what they do on a regular Cirque show but we have to make their feet be able to land on ice,” said O’Brien who hails from London, England. “It’s taken a lot of months of R and D (research and development) to come up with what we have now which is a martial arts shoe, with a regular sole, and then it has a sole of leather then it has a sole of rubber. In between all of that is water-proofing.
“There have been lots and lots of prototypes, really, I think I’m up to prototype 44 now.”
The key to the shoes are the small crampons which are screwed and glued into the soles.
“We have to make sure that the crampons don’t actually come out because we don’t want them going over anything metal because that’s just going to make them go into the audience,” she added. “With these, the acrobats are able to jump, they’re able to land, they’re able to run and because the way they are built, they’re also able to slide at the same time just by putting them on a certain angle.”
Another unique feature of the costumes in this show is that some of them contain sensors which automatically guide the spotlights in the arena to the performer, something otherwise done manually.
The costumes used in Crystal are also made mostly of natural fibres.
“So that means they’re all washable — a lot less spandex — and that’s good,” said O’Brien. “The material is regular cotton with waterproofing which helps them glide because they go over the water rather than soaking it in.”
One of her biggest jobs is laundry which is usually done on arrival, load in a day when the battery of washers and dryers are set up at the back of the arena.
“We look forward to that,” said O’Brien, looking skyward.
Tickets for the Penticton show are available in person at the Valley First Box Office (at the SOEC), over the phone at 1-877-763-2849 or online. Tickets for the Abbotsford show are available at the Abbotsford Centre box office, by phone at 1-855-985-5000 or online.