'Beetlejuice' Gives Local Designer Big Break | WGLT

'Beetlejuice' Gives Local Designer Big Break

May 17, 2019

Say "Beetlejuice" three times fast and you’ll summon the irreverent demon—and Savannah Wetzel will make sure he’s nattily attired.

The former Bloomington-Normal resident is a part of the costume production team for the Tony-nominated musical “Beetlejuice.” Wetzel worked as production assistant to the Tony Award-winning costume designer William Ivy Long, helping to bring to life the dark and edgy Broadway show that hews closely to the original film, while also breaking new ground. In a graveyard, naturally.

Wetzel grew up nurturing a love of fashion. At the suggestion of a family friend, Wetzel expanded her horizons, focusing on costuming while a student at Illinois State University. She didn’t just limit her talents to the stage; Wetzel also turned her design hand to Gamma Phi Circus, creating costumes for the performers.

Wetzel embraced this challenge, she said, because it added variety to her portfolio.

“It was a lot more spandex and dance wear, where movement was important. Not that movement isn’t important in theater, but it’s so heavily focused upon in acrobatics and aerial acts. You need to have a beautiful costume, but you also need to move and do the tricks while wearing these elaborate costumes.”

“Doing that work helped me learn to budget money. It helped me figure out what it takes as far as construction goes as to what goes into a garment, as far as purchasing fabric and trim, which is a lot of what I’m doing now in New York.”

“It really broadened my spectrum as to what goes into the entire process, from start-to-finish as far as designing, as well as the actual creation of the garment," she said.

Wetzel leaped from the collegiate circus to Broadway when she snagged an internship with Long.

“Professor Lauren Lowell at Illinois State, a friend and mentor to me, put me in contact with William’s studio. And that’s how I got my foot in the door.”

Working on “Beetlejuice” kept Wetzel and the costume team busy sourcing materials for the goth-heavy show.

“I went out and purchased all the fabric, the trim, the buttons, everything that went into it. There’s a lot of moving parts to it. We worked with many different costume shops, fabric stores, and manufacturers.”

“It’s a really wonderful experience. Honestly, I couldn’t have done this without the people that have helped me out, looked out for me and paved that way for me. A lot of people took the time to help me learn and teach me everything I know. And I’m still learning. It’s great to work with people who are so supportive.”

The 73rd Tony Awards will be held June 9 at Radio City Music Hall.

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