Broadway Beauty: Backstage at American Idiot
In May I was lucky enough to attend a showing of Broadway’s latest musical sensation, American Idiot, and talk to the creative forces behind the show’s hair looks, lead hair designer Brandon Dailey and costume designer Andrea Lauer (“Head Rush,” page 34). Here are some parts of our interview that I wasn’t able to include in the July issue.
Lori Morris: How did you both get involved in the show?
Andrea Lauer: American Idiot’s set designer, Christine Jones, is a friend, and she thought I’d be a good fit for the show. I’m close in age to the intended audience, and I’ve worked with musicians. I’m known for my renegade design style. Christine recommended Brandon to me. She had been a client of his at Mudhoney Salon in new York City for four years. We both got involved at the very beginning.
Brandon Dailey: When Christine told me about the show, I had no reservations about doing it. Theater is a world I hadn’t yet explored, so I was very excited to try something new. My background is mainly in fashion, but I have many clients in the music industry.
LM: What are some of your favorite hair looks from the show?
AL: I love what we did with Rebecca Jones, who plays Whatshername. I wanted a streak of color in her hair, so I brought her to Mudhoney to see Brandon on her last day off before heading to previews in Berkeley, CA. I showed up with beautiful, vibrant purple flowers and asked Brandon to recreate that color for the streak.
BD: Mary Faber, who played Heather [the pregnant girlfriend of one of the main characters], was the most transformed, so that’s always fun for a stylist. She originally had long hair with extensions, which looked too “suburban” for the character. I gave her a long, layered bob, which changed not only her appearance, but the whole way she approached the character. It also gave her a new attitude in her real life, just like when I transform clients every day in the salon.
LM: Whose look was the most fun to create? Whose was the most challenging?
AL: St. Jimmy, the drug dealer played by Tony Vincent, was the most fun. He was actually the first character we developed a hair concept for. I found a picture of a guy with half of his head shaved, which seemed perfect for this two-sided character. I brought the idea to Brandon, and he helped sculpt the inspiration picture into something more sophisticated. We had Tony grow his hair long, then we shaved half of it, and Brandon created a pronounced zig-zag in the back. Tony was nervous, but he let us do it.
BD: Christina Sajous, who plays Extraordinary Girl and is in the ensemble, had a lot of breakage in her hair. It needed a vacation from flat-ironing, so wig designer Leah Loukas created two full wigs—one for Extraordinary Girl and one for her ensemble role—that matched her real hair exactly.
Another challenge is all the sweating John Gallagher, Jr. does while jumping around onstage during the show. I use Bumble and bumble Brilliantine to give his slacker, drug-addicted character a dirtier, more slept-in look, which evolves even more as he sweats.
LM: What’s the hardest part about working on a Broadway show?
AL: You have to please so many people—the directors, producers, actors and the audience—which causes a lot of anxiety!
LM: What was it like getting the cast ready for their performance at the Grammy’s?
BD: It was a very eye-opening experience. I’ve never seen any production on that scale before, and seeing my work on TV was unreal. The time constraints were also insane. It was like a fashion show times 10.
AL: I felt more like a stylist than a costume designer. I made style image boards, and we drew all over them to come up with balanced looks.