Wig and Hairstyling for the theatre with Kendrie Coonan of Chick Flicks!

AUTHOR: Kendrie Coonan

“Give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair.
Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen.”

Imagine Sandy with a short brown bob, Eponine with a blonde pixie cut, Glinda with some scruffy, red, beach waves. Doesn’t feel right, does it? Hair is a crucial styling element in theatre, and when done well, you don’t even realize the indispensable role it plays.

When putting on a show, it is so important to ensure that hair and makeup don’t become last minute, secondary concerns, lost in a sea of other pressing production elements. Hair can finish off and solidify the look of a character- it’s the long cascading locks of Phantoms Christine, it’s the Tracey Turnblad beehive, and it’s the slick brunette do of the impeccable Velma Kelly. Hell, hair was part of the reason Renee Zellweger fell completely short for me in the screen adaption of Chicago. Roxie is a red head damn it! A fiery, smoking hot RED HEAD!

Period pieces benefit exponentially from the expert touch of a specialist hair stylist. Phantom of the Opera, A Little Night Music and Hello Dolly, amongst countless others, would be lost in translation without styling and wig work to bring the era and all their nuances’ to the stage. 42nd Streets ‘We’re in the money’ would lose all impact without a flock of blonde, vintage waved, tapping bombshells shuffling their hearts out. Marilyn Monroe, without her bleached platinum pin curled do, was a plain little Norma Jean- Hair matters!

Hair styling for the theatre can certainly have its share of complications! My recent wig styling gig with Windmills ‘Phantom of the Opera’ called for over 45 individual wigs to be styled. Most of those wigs required elaborate up-styling in period style and were completed on wigs of various standards and fibres. Some wigs take heat, others will melt at the mere mention of a curling iron! So wig styling this production took creativity, some know how, and also more space than my little three bedroom abode had to offer! There was at least a month where the lounge room looked like the ‘Return to Oz’ closet of heads! Phantom has taught me sensational time management and also what is feasible for the efforts of little old me, and when to enlist help!

What a theatre wig stylist loves is a careful and thoughtful cast member! To win the love of your shows stylist, thus ensuring your wig is always superbly styled, there are a few tips you can follow-

• ALWAYS place your wig on its stand (the correct way round as it is to sit on your head) when not in use.
• If pinning your wig on for security- pick the best few spots to pin it, and pin it in exactly those spots each time.
• Don’t hairspray or add any other product to your wig.
• Don’t remove pins or take liberties with the styling of your wig. (I am always happy to try to accommodate a cast member with a preferred part or style shift, but without express permission the general rule is- Don’t touch!)
• Ask for maintenance tips from your stylist when receiving your wig- each wig is different so find out what you need to know for this wig specifically.
• Learn the best way to put on Head pieces and Hats BEFORE you attempt a DIY moment.
• ALWAYS glue or tape down the front of a mesh front wig. (Yes it’s very fine netting, but no- it is NOT invisible and can still be seen, especially from the stalls!)

There are often shows when performers have the opportunity (or hassle!) of styling their own hair. My advice in these instances is know what you want to do- have a plan, and most importantly finish your work off. The difference between a pretty average hairstyle and a great one is often in the finish! Smooth out your style, comb down fly always and secure that sucker with ample amounts of lacquer! Another great idea is to book a workshop with someone like myself to work on the style, learn some tips and tricks, and give yourself the confidence to do a successful style show after show!

Theatre can often be an amplified expression of what is popular now, and at the moment it is all about Vintage! I was lucky enough to attend the gala opening of King Kong recently, and for the first time in a long time I was utterly impressed with the styling. Costumes were sensational, but more so were the wigs! Fabulous vintage waved do’s, perfectly styled yet natural looking- just fantastic. For the wigs to stand out next to the likes of Esther Hannaford and Chris Ryan- they really must have been excellent! With Musicals such as Rocky Horror, Grease and Les Mis in our midst, I am guaranteed enough vintage fare and retro styling to keep me content for a year!

My little styling business has been running for just over twelve months and is really beginning to get some exposure and find its feet. ‘Chick Flicks’ specialises in Event Hair Styling- everything from Wedding hair to Avant-garde wig styling- if it requires teasing and pins, I can do it! I’m really looking forward to more theatre styling in 2014 in amongst creating some divinely beautiful brides!   Hopefully I’ll be back in the New Year with my tail comb behind my ear, a wig head between my knees, and some bobby pins hanging from my lips. I just love making sure that Carlotta has a towering structure of curls, that Annie has a well manicured fro, and that every Cagelle is a vision of drag delight! And if my job is done right, all you notice is that you were transported to another place in time, it was believable, and you thought it was a ripper show!

Contact Kendrie for all things ‘Hair’ at – www.chickflickseventhair.com