Magnificent Museum - Treasures from Broadway Shows
By Lulu Dolcezza / August, 2011
From the outside of the building, Costume World: The Broadway Collection in Pompano Beach gives no hint of what magic awaits beyond the facade. Located in a bland industrial park, this unusual museum houses a collection of clothes and costumes worn on Broadway stages and in movies by famous and iconic stars. This special place deserves a setting more worthy of the Taj Mahal, considering the gorgeous threads inside.
All stunningly displayed, thanks to museum designer, director and curator Kimberly Wick, these garments of exceptional workmanship aren't hidden behind glass walls as one might expect. Instead, they are right in front of you, on rows and rows of hangers, one row on top of another, going up twenty-five feet. Visitors can get nose-close to the costumes on the first level for an appreciation of special embroidery and private wonderment in thinking about the spectacles that they helped bring to life for thousands of theater-goers.
When you first enter Costume World: The Broadway Collection, the space with a low ceiling features small rooms including a display case with masks and artifacts from Cabaret, a costume worn by Mae West on a mannequin, and a jewelry box with an Egyptian theme owned by Elizabeth Taylor and used by her while making the film Cleopatra.
Six beautiful dresses, all red, from the 1969 production of Coco, are closest to the front door.
Then Wick, our guide for the afternoon tour, walks to double doors faux-painted to look like the imposing doors of a bank vault. She flings them open with dramatic flair to a huge space with a sky-high ceiling. To the right is a real theatrical stage topped with a crystal chandelier saved from the recently closed Tavern on the Green restaurant in New York City. This is where performers engage the lunch crowd, who eat on the restaurant's china, on weekends.
The first display one sees is from The King and I, with the sweeping ball gown worn by the teacher Anna and a mannequin standing in for Yul Brynner, who played the King of Siam, with whom she falls in love. Inventive ways of showing off costumes include those that twirl in place, allowing viewers to appreciate them from all angles, and a trio of flying pigs in pink suits, high over visitors' heads, from the show Into the Woods.
Do you want to see Zero Mostel's costume from Fiddler on the Roof? It's here. What about The Sound of Music? It's here, too. So are the threads from Mame, The Music Man, Camelot, Dracula, Tommy, Sugar, The Producers, and dozens more productions. The most expensive collection, valued at more than $3 million, is designed by Cecil Beaton for My Fair Lady from 1956. The collecting acumen and generosity of founder and CEO Marilyn A. Wick are responsible for this remarkable museum.
It is easy to become overwhelmed in the space with tens of thousands of costumes comprising a history of American musical theater. One particularly delicate and lovely garment is a lavender dress with netting, pearls and lace. It was from the show The Secret Garden. Wick said, "The sin is that the artisans who created these costumes don't exist anymore."
Many of these items in the museum are rented out to theaters, with cost depending upon the number of people in the cast and the size of the theater.
A trip to this museum is so much more than about the costumes themselves, masterworks of design, color, and meticulous detail. It's about the wonderful world of theater itself, the jolt of excitement as the initial curtain goes up, and the journeys of imagination that shows invite theater-goers to take.
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