Caring for Mawbey’s wigs is 29-year-old Paul Bigot, the production’s hair and makeup supervisor.
Bigot spoke from the tour in Boston about the hectic wig-maintenance routines.
“My typical day is that, for a 7:30 show, I come in at 5 o’clock, and I go through all of my wigs and make sure they match the designs that we were sent out on the road with. Sometimes that requires complete re-setting: The night before, we’ll have put the wigs in rollers, then we’ll have two hours to re-dress them for the show. We have half human-hair wigs and half synthetic wigs, and in different cities, the weather affects how the wigs hold up. It’s pretty much like dealing with your own hair every morning. For instance, when it’s cold out, and it’s super-dry in theaters, then you have to deal with static, and your wig will grow on you.
“I’m backstage the whole show. Once the shows starts, my track is nonstop with Albin [a character played by Christopher Sieber], because he’s in and out of makeup. In the number ‘La Cage aux Folles,’ he wears six wigs, and every one of them pretty much gets ripped off onstage, because that’s how he bows: He presents himself to the audience and takes his wig off. So that’s a lot of maintenance for me there.
“We travel with me and my assistant, and in each city we pick up two local hairdressers. After the show, we have to block down all the lace-front wigs [a type of wig with a mesh base around the hairline], pinning the lace down so that it stays nice and tight and flat, because if it starts to roll up, you can see it from the audience. To travel, we have what we call ‘gondolas’: traveling crates that have a shelf with pegs. We put the wig blocks on those pegs. If they have to ramp them down from the truck, sometimes the wig blocks will fall off the pegs and then that’s a lot more work to do when we’re loading in. You have to be able to roll with the punches.
“When we’re changing cities, and we load into a theater, we have a full eight hours to wash and re-set and style wigs. They’re all on a two-week rotation. That’s why we’re in the theater right now [in Boston]: We came in at 1 p.m., because we have six wigs that we’re washing.
“With this show you notice the hair: It’s big, fun hair. But a lot of times the wig department is an unspoken department: If it’s a very natural-hair show, and someone notices a wig, something went wrong. This show has five more wigs than I had on ‘Hairspray’: It’s huge. It’s kind of a show about the hair.”
Wren is a freelance writer.
La Cage aux Folles
Tuesday through Feb. 12 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW. Tickets $65-$130. Call 800-444-1324 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.