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Halloween costumes inspired by the West End

Go theatrical with your fancy dress this year with ideas from characters of the stage.

Halloween costumes inspired by the West End

Stuck on what to wear for Halloween this year? Bored of the same old mummy, ghost and clown costumes and searching for something a bit different instead? Then look no further than the West End.

As a hub of creativity and extravagance, London’s theatre jungle is always brimming with outlandish costumes and designs. Whether it’s vicious villains or creepy creatures, characters from the stage are a great way to show off originality and can also be fairly easy to recreate at home. This year’s theatre programme has plenty to choose from, so go ahead and show off your sinister side with our list of the best Halloween costumes for 2018.

The Phantom, Phantom Of The Opera

Production shot

A tale of opera and obsession; the Phantom of the Opera is a seductively charming choice for Halloween. A classic of the theatre world, the play is based upon the French novel by Gaston Leroux. The mysterious Phantom falls in love with the new operatic star, Christine Daae, threatening both her and the directors of the theatre she performs at if they fail to obey his commands. His character is dramatic and possessive, where his eeriness and mystifying persona make him the perfect Halloween choice.

Maria Björnson won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design due to her unique unison of historical and fashion sources for the Andrew Lloyd Webber play. The most iconic of the Phantom’s costumes occurs during the graveyard scene, comprising a tailored suit, a wide brim feather hat that curves upwards, an ankle length wide black cloak and a skull stick, drawing on Björnson’s passion for Parisian couture. Most importantly, the Phantom wears the white diagonal mask that covers half of his face, which has been recreated by many costume stores so is easy to locate. This outfit appears as the Phantom emerges from a gravestone while Christine is mourning her father, designed to channel the mood and atmosphere required for the scene -ideal for a gloomy, spooky look this Halloween.

Scar, The Lion King

Credit: Joan Marcus

One of the evilest of all (remember the tragic scene of Mufasa’s passing that had us all in tears!); Scar is the malicious and cunning uncle of Prince Simba who plots to take the throne of the Pridelands. The 1994 Disney movie became a West End sensation, acclaimed for its novelty and innovative approach to theatre. Drawing heavily on the animation, The Lion King musical is arguably one of the best representations of how to adapt cartoon animals for a live stage production. Designer Julie Taymor, who won two Tony Awards for her work, took inspiration from both African masks and textiles alongside forms of wildlife. For ‘Scar’, she integrated geometric Kuba design and created an asymmetrical mask, which mirrors the character’s contorted psychology and differentiates from the other masks that are more balanced and harmonic.

To recreate Scar for Halloween, consider Taymor’s use of geometric designs, printed leotards and large masks. Thankfully, animal prints are on trend this Autumn meaning there’s plenty to work with. Kids may also enjoy painting their own masks from crafts, making it a fun costume for any age.

Miss Trunchbull, Matilda the Musical

Credit: Matilda the Musical

Truly terrifying to the core, the thunderous Miss Trunchbull is the headmistress from hell. She has a passion for hating children, inventing torturous disciplinary tactics such as whizzing a girl around by her pigtails, forcing a boy to eat a ginormous cake til he feels sick, and locking Matilda in the narrow, spikey closet aka ‘the chokey’ (NB TickX only advocates the costume, not the behaviour). She is one of the most eccentric characters of Roald Dahl’s children books, which makes her a great choice for Halloween - especially if you're goal is to scare away neighbourhood kids.

To morph into Miss Trunchbull, you’ll need a beige mac or overcoat, thick green knee-high socks and a slicked back hair bun atop. Additions may include a whip or monobrow. An alternative trademark look for Miss Trunchbull draws on the character’s history of competing in the Olympics for the shot put, javelin and hammer throw. For this costume, Trunchbull sports a grey hoodie with ‘1972’ on it (the year she competed) with a waist belt over the top. You can also try swapping the whip for a kettlebell if you can lug it round! Due to the increased popularity of the book revived as a record-breaking Olivier Award-winning musical, there are plenty of Trunchbull costumes to purchase online.

Multiple Characters, Heathers the Musical

Credit: Pamela Raith

A simple but effective choice for Halloween, and one that can integrate your partner or group of friends for added effect. Heathers is the sadistic satire and cult classic of the late 80’s that was recreated on stage. This year marks its 30th anniversary, but the plot is still as thrilling as ever. Veronica Sawyer and her boyfriend JD seek revenge for the cruel behaviour of their fellow clique. After they accidentally murder the leader of the pack, JD embarks on a killing spree of other students, and Sawyer races to stop him. Bursting with murderous coverups and popularity wars, Heathers is the ultimate tale of teenage angst.

If you’re hitting up the club scene or a party with your mates this Halloween, why not take on the role of the clique? Like the teletubbies, each has their own colour with Veronica dressed in blue. Unlike the teletubbies, the outfits are ones you’ll definitely enjoy wearing; think a mix of Clueless meets ‘Gossip Girl’’s ‘Blair Waldorf’. You’ll need a colour-coordinated blazer, checked skirt and knee-high socks to complete the look, or for those wanting to be Miss V and her JD, consider a dark wig for Veronica if you’re naturally fair-haired and an all-black ensemble with a knee length black coat for her beau.

Velma Kelly and Roxy Hart, Chicago

Production shot

Move over Zelda Fitzgerald, Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart show they’re the true Queens of the Jazz Age. Chicago the Musical is the quintessential story of crime, corruption and cabaret set in one of the most iconic and outrageous eras of the 20th century. These leading ladies make a great choice for Halloween, both defiant, sassy and unremorsefully criminal - having both killed their former lovers. The plot follows the murderesses as they compete for the attention of their lawyer, Billy Flynn and the media’s limelight from behind prison walls.

The notorious tale proved so popular on Broadway and the West End, it was transformed into a 2002 film starring Catherine Zeta Jones (Kelly), Renee Zellweger (Hart), and Richard Gere (Flynn) who continued to displaye the best of flapper glamour. Kelly or Hart are good for those looking for a ridiculously fun costume worthy of a great night out; the villainesses typify the razzle dazzle of the roaring 20’s, with a short black outfit paired with fishnet tights and silver heels. Opt for a black hat, and a black blazer over a body suit to keep warm!

Javert, Les Miserables

Credit: Les Mis

A musical of crime, heartbreak and political uprising, Les Miserables is the famed work of French novelist, Victor Hugo. Les Miserables has been housed in the West End since the mid 80’s, making it the longest-running musical of London’s theatre district. Set in early 19th century France in the town of Montreuil-sur-mer, characters playfully exhibit period clothing, making it a fun and creative costume to wrap yourself up in this Halloween.

Inspector Javert is the primary antagonist. He ruthlessly seeks to uphold justice, making it difficult for the hero, Jean Valjean to live out his post-prison life in peace. Javert is dressed in his uniform, sporting a navy blue double-breasted coat/jacket with either white or matching navy trousers and a bicorn hat. To accessorise, why not invest in an epaulette (aka a fringed shoulder piece typically worn by French soldiers) and a cane? Les Miserables has plenty of other wonderful and fantastical costumes to take inspiration from too.

Michael Jackson, Thriller Live

Promotional photo

Shortly before the death of one of music’s most gifted entertainers, Thriller Live opened at the Lyric Theatre and treated fans to a musical journey through The King of Pop’s greatest hits. Each song from Michael Jackson’s impressive catalogue of music is iconic, whether it’s the lyrics, the beats, the dance moves, or the fashion. Thriller Live offers so many potential costume choices for Halloween. Along with the singer’s music, his looks also morphed and transformed over the years, giving creatives of the show plenty to work with. His image is instantly recognisable, whether it’s the sparkling attire, the white glove or the long black wavy hair. But when it comes to Halloween, there’s no better choice than Jackson’s costume for the title song ‘Thriller’.

Arguably his most famous track of all time, ‘Thriller’ is a song about ‘evil lurking in the dark’, ‘creatures creeping up behind’ and ‘beasts about the strike’. We challenge you to find a song more suited to Halloween! To emanate the singer in the video, opt for shiny red pants and a matching jacket with black trimmings. Though he never actually wears THE white glove in this video, it has become so symbolic of the man that many Halloween costumes mimicking Jackson in Thriller include it. But what’s more important here is the white socks and black shoes! You may have sworn to yourself never to wear this combination, but it’s certainly a strong element of the costume. For those with a knack for makeup, why not try out the zombie-faced Jackson as seen during the emblematic dance routine.

Deena, Effie and Lorrell, Dreamgirls

Production Shot

If you’ve always dreamed of wearing a dazzling and glitzy evening gown but don’t generally attend too many balls, disguising as one of the characters from the West End’s Dreamgirls for Halloween is the perfect excuse to glam up. The production tells the tale of three female singers, Deena, Effie and Lorrell who are loosely based upon Diana Ross and The Supremes. In their pursuit of making it big, Dreamgirls features a whole lot of singing, a whole lot of soul...and above all, a whole lot of sequins.

The costumes of Dreamgirls were designed to transmit the career and showbiz lifestyle of the characters. Costume Designer, Gregg Barnes, ensured that the dresses matched the stage the protagonists were at in their journey to fame. In scenes where the trio had reached the point of playing at lavish venues, Barnes used over 30,000 crystals to adorn the gowns. While we don’t expect you to deck your dress with 30,000 crystals just to celebrate Halloween, consider opting for a long, sequined gold dress, elbow-length white gloves and larger than life hair to unveil your inner diva.

Genie, Aladdin

Production shot

Not strictly a villainous character of any sort, but a larger than life blue floating body with crazy eyes sure is scary. The infamous and incredulous ‘Genie’ portrayed by the late Robin Williams made lasting impressions when the animation ‘Aladdin’ first hit the big screen in the 1992. Today, his magical energy has made him a cultural pop icon and beloved Disney character by all ages. But like with the Lion King, it’s quite difficult to imagine how to recreate a cartoon in real life, and in this case of the Genie - how to not look like an overgrown ‘smurf’! Enter the creatives of the West End...

The live stage production of Aladdin features a genie dressed in an indigo-blue sparkly velvet suit with striking, ornate gold details. The costume was another of Tony Award-winning Gregg Barnes’ designs, and brilliantly conjured up the magic of the character through the ensemble. To transform into the beloved blue spirit, think hareem pants and a velvet suit. Try adding jewels or even a jewelled belt, and consider props such as the golden lamp to accompany the look. To go the extra mile, use golden eyeshadow and make brows bold in black.

Elphaba, Wicked

Wicked the Musical

No Halloween costume list would be complete without a witch in there. But rather than dressing up as any old witch, become the witch instead. ‘Wicked’s’ ‘Elphaba’ is one of the most recognisable characters of the stage; the protagonist of one of the most adored and longest-running shows in the West End. The musical is the prequel to the renowned ‘The Wizard of Oz’, telling the story of how Elphaba becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. Her emblematic emerald green face is central to the plot of the story, where her journey to wickedness is closely linked with being seen as ‘different’ from others around her. The vivid green face is offset with a high-collared, long-sleeved dark dress and quintessential pointy hat and broomstick.

Her West End costume was created by Susan Hilferty, who designed the two protagonists’ attires, Galinda (the Good Witch of the South) and Elphaba, as representations of good and evil respectively. Galidina was inspired by the the sky, light, stars and rainbows whereas Elphaba is represented by the earth. Therefore, Elphaba’s dress isn’t strictly black, but rather has coal and jewel like elements. To truly show off some creativity this Halloween, avoid the standard slinky black dress and consider dark grey fabrics with intricate details and torn or hanging edges.

Want to see these characters shake up the stages of the West End? Why not check out our theatre page for details and tickets to upcoming shows.

Explore Theatre

Written by
Aminah Barnes
Thursday 11th October 2018

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