"It's the first time I've designed this period," says costume designer Fabio Toblini on Ford's Theatre's holiday mainstay, A Christmas Carol. "I did Victorian shows before, but never the 1850s."
Toblini came on board at the request of the theater's new producing director, Paul Tetreault, who decided to chuck the production of Carol that's been playing at the venue for too many years and try something fresh.
"At first, management asked me to look through the stock of the costumes of the shows that they used to do," says Toblini, a native of Verona, Italy and a gay man. "But it was a very different aesthetic of what we wanted to do, so I couldn't use anything."
Good thing, too. The revamped production has -- you'll pardon the pun -- renewed spirit. It's darker, stranger, with a hint of the surreal and a touch of class. It feels more theatrical and certainly more weighty than its sugar-coated predecessor. And Toblini's costumes are only the tip of an artfully and imaginatively designed iceberg.
Toblini's creations move from dowdy and drab to fanciful and fantastical to downright spooky. His outfit for The Ghost of Christmas Past, a luminous little number (fiber-optics are embedded in the fabric) complete with a sparkling turban, is the evening's big stunner ("I'm not going to tell you what it cost, because the producer would kill me"), as is his spine-tingling creation for the ghost of Jacob Marley.
A stickler for details, Toblini researched the period and the play thoroughly, noting that "since I am Italian, I was not raised on A Christmas Carol. So I had the luck of not knowing what Christmas Carol was supposed to look like. I went into it fresh and just worked as I would work doing any new play."
A Christmas Carol runs through January 2, 2005 at Ford's Theatre, 511 10th Street NW. Tickets range from $25 to $48. Call 202-347-4833 or visit www.fordstheatre.org.