Dust off your sequins and prepare to be transported to a New York City street in 1984, where hot dog vendors, bars and photo opportunities aplenty await. Pleasuredome is a fully-immersive theatre experience like no other that’s taken Auckland – if not the country – by storm.

Welcome to Pleasuredome

Set in 1980s New York in an underground nightclub facing closure, Pleasuredome tells a tale of love, addiction and corporate takeovers. But above all that, Pleasuredome is a celebration of gay culture, drag artists and dancers, the bold, the brash and the beautiful.

National treasure Lucy Lawless stars as our hero protagonist “Sappho”, the club owner trying to stop the place that represents pride, acceptance and freedom from being demolished, all while nursing a cocaine habit and falling in love unexpectedly. Lawless is joined onstage by Moses Mackay from Sol3 Mio, Vince Harder from The Lion King and Ashleigh Taylor.

The storyline is based on songs by Bruce Springsteen, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Tears for Fears, Grace Jones and more that will have you dancing in the isles – or at least bopping your head to the beat. Executive producer, Hollywood heavyweight Rob Tapert, sums it up: “The dialogue of our story is your favourite song”.

The creative masterminds behind the visual spectacular had a challenge; not only do the costumes, hair, and makeup need to have high-impact aesthetically, they also need to withstand the pace of high-energy dancing and movement.

We went behind-the-scenes to chat with Barbara Darragh and Stefan Knight on the challenges they faced and their inspiration.

Barbara Darragh, Costume Designer

Barbara Darragh’s 80s-inspired costume concepts

Barbara Darragh had an extensive repertoire of iconic 1980s looks as inspiration, but her vision was to rework them to keep the costumes fresh and modern. Versace, Salt N’ Peppa, Madonna and RuPaul all feature on Barbera’s inspiration mood boards.

“Every Pleasuredome character has a personality, a soul and a backstory,” said Darragh. It’s this attention to detail that connects the audience with the characters.

The costumes had to be durable yet skimpy, supportive yet flexible. Vintage pieces were given a new lease of life with some clever dressmaking, and, of course, you can never have too many sequins.

Working alongside the lighting team to ensure the maximum effect, Darragh’s creations continue to evolve, adding a new garment here or another sequin there. The energy of the show owes in part to these creations, bringing life to the characters and keeping the audience mesmerised (and also lusting after a few of the outfits).

Stefan Knight, Makeup & Hair Design

Stefan Knight’smesmerising hair and makeup inspiration boards

“More is more!” says Stef Knight when describing the hair and makeup designs. Knight’s years of experience working with drag acts put him in the perfect position to design and implement bold and bright makeup and larger-than-life wigs. Classic drag makeup is combined with iconic 1980s beauties like Sharon Stone and Debbie Harry.

Knight faced a similar challenge as Darragh: The hair and makeup had to be high function and be able to withstand hours of performance under hot lights, without wilting or melting. The wigs and makeup looks continue to evolve through the run of the show, with new adaptions helping to keep the production fresh and unexpected.

“We’ve added some makeup accents that responds to blacklight, it really makes it pop. It’s big and crazy and fun.” – Stef Knight

Along with the extremely talented cast and crew, Director Michael Hurst and producer Rob Tapert have delivered something unique to the New Zealand cultural landscape.

Pleasuredome has just announced an extended run, now playing until 23rd December. For more information, visit the Pleasuredome website.

Melissa Reid

Melissa Reid

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