Dressing "Dreamgirls": Original costumes used in Arts Center production

From left, Pillin Anice, Caitlainne Rose Gurreri and Jasmin Richardson star in the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina production of "Dreamgirls."
From left, Pillin Anice, Caitlainne Rose Gurreri and Jasmin Richardson star in the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina production of "Dreamgirls." Photography by Anne/Special to Lowcountry Current

Hand-beaded evening gowns and red velvet blazers line the hallway in front of the costume shop in the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina. Unlike most costumes at the arts center, these were not made or designed in-house.

The upcoming production of "Dreamgirls" at the arts center gives theatergoers the opportunity to see some of the original costumes from the renowned designer Theoni Aldredge, who did the "Dreamgirls" costume work on Broadway.

Usually, arts center costume director Jennifer Correll designs the costumes for all of the shows during a season, but when the theater had the opportunity to get the originals, Correll couldn't resist.

"They are very well made, and there's an awful lot of detail," Correll said, noting the in-house shop would not have had the time to put together the costumes the same way. "These probably took two years, and we just don't have that time or the budget."

Aldredge designed costumes for hundreds of productions -- on and off Broadway. She died in January at the age of 88 with a legacy that swept decades of shows. According to her obituary in The New York Times, Aldredge had more than 1,000 of her costumes in five musicals running simultaneously in 1984.

Through some connections from former actors and friends of the arts center, many of the costumes from the Broadway production of "Dreamgirls" will be in the local production.

"It's wonderful to see other people's work and how it's put together," Correll said.

"Dreamgirls" follows a trio of female singers as they hit it big in show business. The musical is supposedly based on the aspirations of The Supremes, The Shirelles and similar girl groups from the 1960s. The original production, which won six Tony Awards, hit Broadway in 1981 at the Imperial Theater.

The local production is the first of the five-show season at the arts center. The month-long run starts Sept. 28. Other shows this season include "The Drowsy Chaperone," "Lend Me a Tenor," "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and "Shout! The Mod Musical."

Correll will create the costumes for the other shows this season. She said she loves the work she's doing at the arts center.

"It kind of looks like a painting when they're all on stage," she said.

Correll originally studied at Florida State University to be an actress. She says she got "sidetracked" in Italy, where she lived for three-and-a-half years. When she came back, she started working at a theater in Florida.

"I just fell into it," Correll said.

Eventually, she ended up traveling with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, working on props and costumes, for five years before she landed on Hilton Head. Correll has been at the Arts Center for more than 10 years.

"To do this, you have to have a good crew, and I do," Correll said. "We're lucky enough to have a terrific crew here. The whole production staff has so much creativity to work with. We're very lucky."