Big Hair, Don’t Care: The Making of Closer to Heaven (Part 5)

The Queen of 80’s Hair Care

If your hair wasn’t teased to heaven, did you even have hair in the 80’s? Not since Eat Cake has hair design been such a critical component in our technical work. The bigger the hair, the better you felt. Master Mystery Productions has made a bold leap in ensuring our hairstyles are as badass as can be for Closer to Heaven. Today, in this behind-the-velvet-rope blog post, we’re talking about the inspiration and the perspiration behind crafting the Closer to Heaven coiffures.

BIG HAIR, DON’T CARE: The Making of Closer to Heaven (Part 5)

Samples of our Hair Designers’ work at MMP:
Left–Stephanie Bradley for Leslie Blake in Foul Play
Right–Monica Dwyer for herself in Eat Cake

Hair design is kind of the cherry on top of the character sundae. It can communicate character, setting, era, atmosphere. And the hair of the 80’s was bigger than ever. To paraphrase one of our designers, you could go through four cans of Aqua Net a week…and that’s if you were going smaller than usual on your daily construction of a totally radical 80’s ‘do. As one of our most ambitious shows in all aspects of technical design, we turned to true artisans to tease and crimp our actors into shape, making our hair do the most limber aerobics of all time. Who knew we had that much hair to start with?

As seen above, our Closer to Heaven Hair Design was divided among two very talented artists. Stephanie Bradley has been a guest hair artist in several MMP shows such as Anonymous, What Happens at Sundown, Foul Play, Lenore Nevermore, and Woman in the Walls. Her hairstyles for those shows have been known to work in a hidden, signature S. This production features the largest collection of her work yet for the characters Dawn, Hallie, Angel, Gabriel, and Ariel.

Monica Dwyer is a well-known and beloved MMP Hall of Fame Artist who takes up the mantle as a Hair Designer for the first time although she has had her talent with the hairspray and brush featured in work for characters such as Donatella Violetta in Exit Prima Donna and a towering confection for her own character of Madame la Comtesse in Eat Cake. Her work will be seen for the characters Erin, Crystal, Stella, and Lucas. Below, we’ll step into their theatrical salons to talk about some of their show designs.

Dawn’s hair design by Stephanie Bradley

Dawn’s hair echoes her Badass Boss energy and rocker aesthetics. Her costume blends nightclub couture with concert promoter flair, making her look not only like a clubgoer, but emphasizes she is the club owner. So her hair had to be special. And Stephanie created a masterpiece that immediately had us crying “Cher!” at the top of our lungs. And that’s a huge compliment. The hair evoked these memories of Cher winning Oscars in the 80’s, and we loved that vibe for our own superstar Dawn Schuyler. As Stephanie puts it, “the bigger the hair, the better. Every 80’s badass, tough woman had big hair.”

Hallie’s hair design by Stephanie Bradley

Hallie Sheppard, played by Olivia Holm, crosses boundaries with true rock-and-roll androgyny with a costume that brings to mind everyone from David Bowie to Joan Jett to Freddie Mercury to Pat Benatar. But she also is an aerobics devotee and sports drink advocate, so Stephanie blended the two ideas together: “Olivia’s look was inspired by Olivia Newton John’s ‘Physical.’ The wild side of working out.” The head wrap becomes a stand-in for a sweatband at the nightclub while also evoking something Pat Benatar might have worn in ‘Love Is a Battlefield’ with a closer-to-heaven rocker tease.

Angel’s hair design by Stephanie Bradley

For Angel Archer, Stephanie got the clearest brief–a look inspired by Don Johnson playing Sonny Crockett in Miami Vice. She was blessed with actor Calvin Johnson’s golden tresses which were sculpted into shimmering waves like the sunset-colored shoreline of Miami Beach. The slightly wet look gives Angel this feeling of just having stepped off the sands of Miami after an afternoon swim while still being neat and presentable for a night on the town.

Ariel hair design
by Stephanie Bradley

Ariel gets to rock a classic side ponytail that’s met more than a few cans of hairspray. Actress Libby Mitchell’s long hair gave Stephanie a wonderful playground to go big with the hair. Her waterfall of hair harks back to the TV show Full House with nods to styles worn by DJ Tanner and Kimmy. “Sweet and innocent,” is how Stephanie put it, which is just the sort of fun contrast we wanted for Ariel’s character.

Gabriel’s hair design by Stephanie Bradley

Gabriel Baker, played by Daniel Stallings, gets a unique style all his own since his face is covered entirely in zombie makeup. So the inspiration was obvious, given Gabriel’s red jacket at the start of the show. Stephanie explained, “Daniel’s look is inspired by Michael Jackson’s look in ‘Thriller’…zombified.” So the actor’s natural curls are teased to be more pronounced and he gets a lovely coating of white spray and fake dirt so that he, as Stephanie said on our first consultation, “looks like he just crawled out of his grave.”

Crystal’s hair design by Monica Dwyer

Crystal Cunningham is a character of contrasts: A Valley Girl who loves a good slasher film. Monica Dwyer, whose skill with extensions and hair pieces is unquestionable, created this amazing construction of hair pieces to make the wildest, most slasher-rific side pony on Earth. Crystal gets it all–a hot pink scrunchie, crimped follicles, and hot pink locks sprinkled in to spice up this already spicy take on 80’s hair. In a word, it’s totally Crystal and totally perfect!

Erin’s hair design by Monica Dwyer

Erin Rochester has to look like Madonna. That’s the baseline. Specifically, Madonna when she was doing Like a Virgin. So that’s where Monica started. Hairspray and a teasing comb really are your best friends doing 80’s hair. Monica added a perfect black hair bow on top to give our resident Madonna wannabe a little flourish, finishing the look perfectly.

Stella Spencer’s first hair design by Monica Dwyer

Stella Spencer opens the show as a sweet, naïve woman from Montana trying to stake her own claim as a Hollywood actress and finds employment at the Closer to Heaven nightclub to make ends meet. So her first style is a form of “interview hair,” as it’s the outfit and hair she wears when she is hired by Dawn. We love the gentle curls that give actress Janis Kunz an Avon saleswoman vibe–neat, petite, put-together preppy prettiness. But that style isn’t eternal as Stella gets her butterfly metamorphosis halfway through Act One. Monica was tasked not just with designing the first look, but also to reinvent Stella’s hair into a 80’s clubgoer and do it all in a short span of time. The results are totally radical!

Not since Eat Cake has the hair on our heads taken on such rich and detailed character. But it’s that level of detail that makes Master Mystery Productions so much fun to work on and watch. Whether it’s the neon scrunchie in your hair or the hot pink shoelaces on your feet, the devil really is in the details as we add layer upon layer to every show to make them visual feasts for our guests.

But Closer to Heaven is not just a visual feast. It’s also a treat for the ears as we bring in live music to make sure the party really rocks. Join us for our next behind-the-velvet-rope blog post as we interview Hot Tub Metal Machine, our house band for the show in Rock On!: The Making of Closer to Heaven (Part 6).

We open next week! We’re so excited and we just can’t hide it. Make sure to grab your tickets at Red Rock Books for this one-of-a-kind experience!

–Master Mystery Productions

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