The first time Fairlith Harvey saw Cats, she was ten years old. Now as a twenty-something designer, she is creating the 23 costumes for the upcoming Fighting Chance Productions presentation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.
“Cats doesn’t have much of a fourth wall, and a lot of it takes place in the audience. I remember when I first saw the show I was ten, and had front row aisle seats. So many of the actors included me and it was such a great experience,” says Harvey who also appears in the show as Jennyanydots.
From that first memorable performance, Harvey admits to being so obsessed with the musical, that she created her own cat costume for Halloween twelve years ago. It was that costume that stuck with director Ryan Mooney, who eventually tapped her to be the costume designer for his company’s current production.
“I knew Ryan in my Cats obsessed days,” she says with a laugh. “He remembered about how passionate I was about the show at the time and asked me if I would create the costumes for this production.”
Given creative control over the final look for each Cats character, Harvey says that she drew inspiration from a number of past productions.
“In coming up with my design for Cats I took my knowledge of other productions and amalgamated all the best, and came made my own designs,” she says.
Calling it a unique show where the ensemble are just as involved as the main roles on stage, she set out to create a memorable look for each.
“You might not remember the names of the various cats, but you’ll remember the red cat, or the cat with the stripes. So it was important to give each of them their own unique look,” she says.
With 23 costumes, each created starting with a made-to-measure Lycra unitard base, Harvey started on the project last October. At times working eight and nine hour days as she sat in front of the television at home, it was only with the help of family and friends that she was able to complete them in time for the show’s run in White Rock.
“I was very lucky that so many people were excited by my enthusiasm and people would just pop into my house to help. It was such a massive undertaking,” she says.
While Harvey’s passion for Cats may have started over a decade ago, after spending just a few minutes chatting with her on the phone it is evident that her excitement has continued into adulthood.
“If you haven’t spent the time to make sure the costumes are perfect then the audience isn’t going to be transported into the world of these cats,” she says.
Cats is currently playing the Coast Capital Theatre (1532 Johnston Rd, White Rock) until February 7. Cats opens at the Jericho Arts Centre (1675 Discovery St, Vancouver) on February 19 until March 12. Visit http:// fightingchanceproductions.ca for tickets and information.