Lansing at Large: Costumers take a bow in “Mamma Mia!”

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When Donna and the Dynamos reunite to perform Abba’s “Super Trouper” in the middle of the first act of Lansing High School’s musical “Mamma Mia!” next week, they will be wearing dazzling black and gold jackets over their bell-bottom pants and golden leotards.


“The audience is going to need sunglasses,” Bobbi Wasenko said as she and Tracy La Vigne laid the garments over their arms in the wardrobe backstage at the auditorium.


La Vigne or Wasenko, most times both, have been dressing the cast for every high school and middle school musical and most of the dramas since La Vigne signed up for “The Sound of Music” in 1992. Wasenko joined her soon after her family moved to Lansing in 1998.


Together, the two manage more than 200 bins of costumes and accessories stored behind the stage and on the second floor of the technology building. This is the legacy of their decades of work.


The bi-annual “Nutcracker” show was the gateway production for both women.
“When we pulled the costumes out, the flowerheads looked like a dog had chewed them,” Wasenko said. “I had been sewing for 40 years since my mother taught me, and we re-did the hats.”


La Vigne studied home economics, sewing, and textiles at SUNY Oneonta. After her oldest child Alyssa did the “Nutcracker,” she turned to Director Cindy Howell and asked to do costumes.


Each production is a challenge and an opportunity. La Vigne and Wasenko begin with Howell’s vision for the show and have the freedom to interpret that vision through their craft and expertise.


They begin with their encyclopedic knowledge of the bins, pulling out materials they can re-use or re-purpose. They visit the Salvation Army (“Wednesdays are best,” said Wasenko) and take donations (a drag performer from Ithaca has donated gowns used in “Hairspray” and a sparkly jumpsuit for “Mamma Mia”). Or they make the costumes themselves.


Wasenko made the jackets for Donna and the Dynamos. La Vigne spent five days sewing a historically-accurate 18th-century gown for Madame Thénardier, the innkeeper’s wife from “Les Misérables.”


They’ve rented their costumes to other schools and professional productions. The jacket made for “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat” ended up on stage in London.


At last resort, they rent costumes themselves.


“We rented the costumes for ‘Cats,’ La Vigne said. “They were disappointing. The kids didn’t like them at all.”


“But we couldn’t make them for less than it cost to rent them,” shrugged Wasenko.


“Sometimes we have to change things to match the choreography,” said La Vigne.


“Remember the tunics in ‘Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat?’”


“The ‘Captain’ in ‘Anything Goes?’”


“They were going to scoot across stage in their white uniforms. No.”


“We have twelve white top hats and canes for ‘42nd Street.’”


“Flapper dresses and military uniforms.”


“In ‘Hairspray,’ the pit orchestra was behind the scenery. Tracy Turnblatt and Edna had to come out of Mr. Pinky’s shop, through there, into here, strip down, and get dressed in about 20 seconds.”


“In my first ‘Sound of Music,’ we did the wedding dress change right outside the stage door.”


“In ‘42nd Street,’ we had to do a complete costume change and one of the girls came in with her tap shoes and slid down and across the floor. So, we asked for a few more measures of music.”


“I love working with Tracy,” said Wasenko. “I like to push her out of her comfort zone.”


The two said that they’ve only had one disagreement in all those years – something complicated that had to do with a costume and choreography.
And now, Wasenko is taking her bow.


“We’re moving away,” Wasenko said. “My husband is retiring at the end of June. Each year, the kids say ‘you can’t leave here until I graduate.’ At that rate, I’ll never get out of here.”


“I enjoy it,” she said. “It comes in the middle of the winter. My kids are in college; my husband works out of town. What I am going to do? Sit at home and watch soap operas? By the time we take the costumes home, wash them, and get them all put away, it’s the middle of March and spring is coming.”


“I’ll still be here as long as Cindy is still doing it,” La Vigne said. “But I hope that somebody is coming up the pike. It would be difficult to do this alone. And I am now costuming the children of the students I had when I first started.”

The Musical
“Mamma Mia” follows the travails of Sophie Sheridan (Sierra Stallman) and her mother Donna (Ellie Howell) as the two try to sort out which of three men (George Taylor/Sirus Desnoes, Caleb Spencer, and Aidan Hulsebosch) is Sophie’s father as she prepares to marry her fiancé Sky (Adam Avramis) at their resort in the Greek Isles. Maria Robinson and Fiona Lory-Moran/Audrey Lyons are Donna’s old friends, the “Dynamos.” The “jukebox musical” features the danceable tunes of 70s Euro pop sensations “Abba.”


The show runs March 6 and 7 at 6:30 p.m. and March 8 and 9 at 7 p.m. Tickets became available on Feb. 23 at LTAPA.TicketLeap.com or at the door.


The Lansing High production is directed by Cindy Howell, Tilly Garnett is assistant director, Lorrene Adams is music director, the choreography is by Priscilla Hummel, and costumes are (one more time) by Tracy La Vigne and Bobbi Wasenko.

Briefs:

Society of Women Engineers at Cornell – Engineering Workshop
Cornell’s Society of Woman Engineers is inviting female freshmen, sophomore, and junior high school students to “CUrself as an Engineer.”
Students will be able to speak with current undergraduate engineers, participate in hands-on engineering activities, tour Cornell engineering labs, and hear from engineering professors March 9 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For more information and registration, go to tinyurl.com/yynf66b3 or e-mail Harleen Suri at hs695@cornell.edu.

New Website for Rec Registration
The Town of Lansing Parks & Recreation is now taking reservations and registrations online at lansingrec.recdesk.com/Community/Home. Users can create their own profile to register for programs, rent facilities, and join leagues. There is also a calendar of events available.

LCSD recognized as a top school district
A recent ranking from NYup.com has named the Lansing Central School District one of the top 50 school districts in Upstate New York. Lansing CSD was ranked 16 among the top 50 school districts for 2019 in Upstate New York.


The ranking for the best school district in Upstate NY comes from Niche.com, which has ranked every school in the country based on factors like test scores, college preparedness, graduation rates, teachers, spending per student, and more. This data is pulled from the U.S. Department of Education. Lansing CSD received an overall grade of A, with an 11:1 student teacher ratio, 1300 average SAT score, and 95 percent graduation rate.


This accomplishment marks yet another proud moment for the Lansing CSD.

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