‘Something Rotten’ on Broadway: Behind the Shoe Scenes with Gregg Barnes

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Barnes with actress Beth Johnson Nicely.
Courtesy of Gregg Barnes

For the world premiere of the Broadway musical comedy “Something Rotten!,” costume designer Gregg Barnes started from scratch. Barnes, also the costume designer of “Kinky Boots” and “Aladdin,” took on the task of outfitting a 30-member company in his completely original creations of Renaissance finery, right down to courtly heeled loafers and over-the-knee boots.

The production, opening on April 22 in New York, is set in Shakespeare’s turf of England’s Stratford-Upon-Avon, circa 1590. The show required 92 pairs of T.O. Dey boots for the male cast members and 70 looks for the women. The women’s styles were made by New York City’s LaDuca, with stamped damask leathers sourced by Barnes.

“For every pair of boots, we had to make a tap version as well,” Barnes said of the custom-made shoes, which required actors and dancers to have every part of their feet measured.“It’s like cooking an elaborate dinner,” he said of the lengthy process.

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While the hooped proportions of the elaborate corseted gowns often obscure the women’s footwear, Barnes noted that even if you can’t see the shoes, they serve a significant performance purpose: “I always say, if you get the wig right and the feet right, the rest takes care of itself.”

For “The Bard” and resident rockstar William Shakespeare (played with campy, cocky aplomb by Tony Award winner Christian Borle), Barnes also designed Cuban-heeled buttoned boots for added swagger. “[Christian] really comes into character with them on,” Barnes noted.