Does anyone portray Queen Elizabeth II better than Helen Mirren? We were so excited when “The Audience”opened on Broadway. This show chronicles Queen Elizabeth II and, according to the Vulture review, is all about the costumes spanning the six decades of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.
Bob Crowley, who created both the costumes and sets and Ivana Primorac, who created the wigs, are responsible for split-second costume changes spanning, often, decades. From a Prime Minister John Major’s 1995 audience to a 1952 meeting with Winston Churchill, these changes are both costume-, wig- and set-based but also depend on Mirren’s changes in voice, posture and bearing. It’s theater magic at its best.
The show centers around the Tuesday meetings Elizabeth has with her prime ministers: from Churchill to the present-day David Cameron. The book, by Peter Morgan (who also wrote The Queen, for which Mirren won an Oscar, and depicts Elizabeth’s reaction to Princess Diana’s death) is similarly witty and captivating, and a true character study of Elizabeth. Is this how she really is? Who knows, but it is, indeed, a good story and mesmerizing on stage.
In contrast to Queen Elizabeth’s myriad costumes — from a white coronation gown to a the signature suits of Queen Elizabeth’s later life– the prime ministers are a parade of grey and black. This is, really, the Elizabeth– and Helen Mirren– show. Crowley (and director Stephen Daldry) distract you from the costume changes while all of the costume changes happen on stage. “About six months before rehearsals for the play began, we did a workshop on just the clothes,” says Crowley. “She doesn’t leave the stage to change her costume, shoes or wig.” Mirren herself portrays the Queen both as a young and old woman– a feat of both acting and design.
The Audience runs through June 28th at the Schoenfeld Theater.