Mask­ing the Mu­sic Talent

Cos­tume de­signer be­comes master of dis­guise for Fox singing com­pe­ti­tion

Variety - - Artisans - By WHIT­NEY FRIED­LAN­DER @lois­lane79

fox’s “the masked singer” is a talent com­pe­ti­tion with a dif­fer­ence. The se­ries, which drew 9.2 mil­lion view­ers on its Jan. 2, is not look­ing to find Amer­ica’s next big star. In­stead, it’s about hid­ing them as they per­form cov­ers of chart-top­pers in mas­quer­ade.

Twelve celebs com­pete, with one singer elim­i­nated each week as iden­ti­ties are re­vealed. Fog ma­chines and backup dancers add to the am­bi­ence of this adap­ta­tion of a Korean for­mat.

Fool­ing the au­di­ence, as well as the other con­tes­tants, re­quires some in­trigu­ing head-to-toe dis­guises — cour­tesy of the woman be­hind the masks of “The Masked Singer,” cos­tume de­signer Ma­rina Toy­bina.

The four-time Emmy win­ner knows a thing or two about ad­ding raz­zle- daz­zle to per­form­ers’ wardrobes, thanks to her work on projects like Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” and Katy Perry’s 2015 Su­per Bowl half­time show. She says she was most ex­cited to bring a “cine­matic ap­proach” to re­al­ity TV, a genre that tra­di­tion­ally has sched­ules and bud­gets too strict to al­low for any­thing overly com­plex or avant-garde.

Toy­bina started “Singer” with about 20 il­lus­tra­tions, cre­at­ing char­ac­ters like a hippo with LL Cool J-style chains, in­spired by her love of hip-hop mu­sic; a de­mon- eyed white rab­bit in a strait­jacket based on the films “Ed­ward Scis­sorhands” and “Don­nie Darko”; and a golden lion that pays trib­ute to fash­ion de­sign­ers like Alexan­der Mcqueen and Thierry Mu­gler as well as the “Chron­i­cles of Nar­nia” books.

Toy­bina says it seemed kis­met the way the 12 in­au­gu­ral singers ap­peared drawn to par­tic­u­lar looks; the per­son dressed as a glit­tery blue-and-green pea­cock — a de­sign that makes her think of a Las Ve­gas en­ter­tainer — per­formed a song from the Hugh Jack­man movie “The Great­est Show­man.”

There were also tech­ni­cal fac­tors to con­sider, such as whether the per­form­ers would be able to dance — or even keep from fall­ing off the stage. Ad­just­ments had to be made to en­sure ev­ery­one could hear, see and, most im­por­tant, breathe in the made-to- or­der masks.

Toy­bina says there was “def­i­nitely trial-and- er­ror try­ing to fig­ure out the best way to hide our talent and make them be­come these char­ac­ters with­out any sign of skin.” Other fac­tors in­cluded whether the per­former had the type of en­er­getic stage pres­ence that would be hin­dered by a more con­strict­ing de­sign or if that per­son was stat­uesque and could pull off a more ex­trav­a­gant look.

The na­ture of the show also re­quired what Toy­bina de­scribes as “very, very pri­vate” fit­tings at a “hid­den-away” lo­ca­tion. She also teases that these looks can be de­ceiv­ing.

“There were a few gen­der mixes within the cos­tumes,” Toy­bina warns when asked about, say, a cur­va­ceous alien or a corseted uni­corn. “I had such creative free­dom from my net­work and the pro­duc­ers that we were able to play around … and the cast was so open-minded as to who would go into a fe­male cos­tume or who would go into a male and how we’d ad­just the build based on that.”

The de­signer is tight-lipped about the orig­i­nal sketches that didn’t make it on-screen, sav­ing them for a po­ten­tial sec­ond sea­son that she says would delve more into fan­tasy. Might we also sug­gest a red her­ring?

First Re­vealA hip-hop hippo dis­guises Pitts­burgh Steeler An­to­nio Brown.

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