CHARLOTTETOWN – The numbers 23, 48, and 20 are key ones for wig mistress, Honey Landry at the Charlottetown Festival this season.
© Submitted photo
Wig mistress, Honey Landry, with some of her wigs at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown.
Twenty-three is the number of wigs used every night in “Anne of Green Gables – The Musical”. Not to be outdone, the new kid on the block, Ted Dykstra’s epic “Evangeline” musical doubles that, requiring 48 wigs to take the audience from Nova Scotia to Louisiana and dozens of points in between. But perhaps the most important number is 20, for 20 years, which is the benchmark reached this season by Landry at the festival.
Landry, of Charlottetown, first came to Confederation Centre in 1992, a season that featured braids, up-do’s, and sideburns-a-plenty for shows like “The Great Adventure” and “Patsy Cline.”
“I had just returned to work after having a child, and having cut hair in a salon for a few years, was looking for a change,” she says. “A friend had been working here and was leaving and asked if I wanted to try it out.”
Landry trained under Sharon Ryman from the Canadian Opera Company that same year, and now, dozens of Festival and Christmas shows later, is knee deep in hair for “Evangeline” and “Anne” and still doing haircuts and colours for the many actors in all five festival shows.
A season’s workload begins in May when the costume designers, pouring over sketches, books, and websites, discuss what is in stock and what must be ordered from wig shops in Halifax, Toronto, or New York. Synthetic wigs can range anywhere from $60 to $400, while real wigs can run as high as $1,000. The actors are then fitted for their wigs, and some for facial hair.
“We measure their heads, or faces, and use everyday saran wrap to get exact lines,” says Landry. “The designer then draws what style she wants on the wrap.”
If it’s for facial hair, a cutting of the actor’s hair is taken to match the colour. These pieces are then sent to the hair shop to be woven or knotted.
“Anne” presents a unique challenge as the styles of 1908 are very specific and the children are meant to age over the course of the show. ‘Anne with an e’, for instance, uses four different wigs. “The biggest challenge though is keeping the style accurate, especially with the Ladies of Avonlea as they wear large hats that must be pinned on top of the wigs.”
Evangeline presents a different test as the musical’s 48 wigs are worn mostly by the men, depicting a range of Acadians, settlers, and soldiers. As well, the show has 46 individual scenes, many of them extremely short, requiring the changes to be lightning fast.
“Evangeline is certainly big, but not the most we’ve seen. There were close to 80 used in ‘British Invasion’,” says Landry, recalling numerous afros, shags, and Beatles mops used in the 2007 show. Another that stands out is 2010’s “Hairspray!,” one of the largest musicals the centre has mounted.
She laughs when remembering a mishap involving George Wendt, who starred as Edna Turnblad.
“His wig came right off on opening night – I didn’t pin that one on myself!” she chuckles. “Being the total pro and comedian that he is, he scooped it right back up, selling the crowd on it the whole time.”
Thankfully there have been no such moments this season, but plenty of braids, beards, buns and curls to keep Landry and her team bustling each day. The Charlottetown Festival wigs are on tight until the closing night of “Evangeline,” Friday, Sept. 28.