By Roy Steinberg
For the third play of the season, Cape May Stage is producing a new play about Vivian Vance from I Love Lucy, called “Sidekicked.” It is written by Emmy award-winning writer Kim Powers, Directed by Emmy nominee Roy Steinberg, and stars Tony Award nominee Sally Mayes as Vivian Vance in this one-woman show.
The character’s costume details were simple, yet important. A stunning bathrobe, a dress that looks like it came right from the TV shows of that era, and a wig. Of all the elements, the wig seemed the simplest. Boy were we wrong.
When it came time to find a costume designer for “Sidekicked,” we did not have to look much further than the playwright’s husband, Jess Goldstein. In addition to winning a Tony Award for his designs for The Revivals, Jess was also awarded the Tony Award’s Irene Sharaff Award for Lifetime Achievement in Costume Design. We were overjoyed to have someone with such talent to design for a show at Cape May Stage.
The first item that he wanted to discuss? The wig, of course.
The cost of the wig that Jess wanted was actually higher than the entire budget for hair, makeup, and costumes for the entire show. Instead of going with a lesser quality item, Jess decided to kindly redirect his salary into the show’s budget and “call in a favor.”
When wig artistry on Broadway is discussed, Hamilton is certainly one of the shows that immediately comes to mind. So that is where Jess called in his favor to his dear friend Charles LaPointe, who designed the wigs for Hamilton. He had the perfect human hair wig for us and actually agreed to donate it.
The production team was overjoyed at getting something for free that would normally cost thousands of dollars. The only caveat was that it couldn’t simply be shipped. No, no, no, that would be far too easy. We needed to send our Wardrobe Supervisor to NYC for the day to learn how to properly take care of the wig and safely transport it to Cape May with her. Our Wardrobe Supervisor was working on our second show of the season, Sylvia, but needed to learn from the wig master, so we had to make it work.
To accomplish this, we brought in a swing employee who trailed our Wardrobe Supervisor for a few performances in order to take on all of the important tasks and quick changes that the current show requires. With that taken care of, the show could go on while she was sent to the wig promise-land in NYC.
While we didn’t end up spending thousands of dollars for the wig, our “free” wig certainly racked up several hundred dollars in expenses. But as the lights came up on Opening Night, it was all worth it. Between the costumes, make-up, and the all-important wig, Sally Mayes was completely transformed into Vivian Vance. You could hear a literal gasp as the audience saw the transformed Sally Mayes on stage.
The next time you are at a show at Cape May Stage, don’t forget that every item on stage, both big and small, has a purpose… and sometimes a crazy story of how it got there.
“Sidekicked” plays at Cape May Stage through September 20, Tuesday to Sunday at 8 p.m. For tickets call 609-770-8311, visit capemaystage.org or visit the box office at The Robert Shackleton Playhouse, located at 405 Lafayette Street, Cape May.