A few days ago I was so excited to chat with Krystina Alabado, an original cast member of Broadway’s American Idiot, who is reprising her role here in San Francisco. She was incredibly cheery and friendly, despite what has to be a grueling performance schedule. We talked a bit about DIY mani’s (she liked my nail polish but I cautioned her not to look too closely, because it’s actually quite messy), Green Day, and of course, costumes! Read on to hear about the role of costumes in getting into character, Doc Martens making a comeback, and a great tip on making leggings look fierce.
The only thing I’ve experienced that’s close to getting into costume is getting ready to go out, and that’s a process I tend to enjoy. What’s it like getting into costume every day? Is it fun?
It’s so fun. The cool thing about this show is that everything we wear I would totally wear in real life. The way that Andrea (our costume designer) put everything together, you really see where it is now, in fashion. I get to throw on a really bright lipstick which I don’t get to do often, and now my hair has all these different colors like blond and red, so it’s cool. Personally, I dress girlier, like girlie punk. So in the show it’s fun to turn into a character with leather pants. I have one really cool [sweater-vest] with fur all along the front, in bright pink. For me it’s super fun to put on my new face – new make-up, all these cool costumes. It really does transform me as an actor. It helps me get into that character. It’s interesting because you don’t think of that as an outsider, but the clothes really do inform how I am that day in the show.
At what point do you get into character?
It’s different for everybody. As you saw the show is extremely fast-paced. I think I have 13 costume changes, and each one is a different character, basically. I play a nurse in the army; I play a heroin addict; I play a kid stuck in suburbia. That’s what’s great about the show is as an actor it’s (snaps fingers) making you go bam, bam, bam, bam, bam! It tests you, because you have to be able to say, ‘I’m not in the army any more. I’m a junkie’.
We have to be here half an hour before the show to get ready and warm up. So I guess it takes, having a minute, and then changing and getting ready for the show. We do a great warmup up on the stage together. We count off and do this… 1! 2! 3! 4! where we all scream together, which is really fun. But I think it’s just, [having] all of us together, and when you hear that music, you can’t help but feel like a rockstar! So for me that’s my process.
Before you spoke about liking the pieces you were wearing in the show. Do any of the elements of the costumes from the show work their way into your wardrobe?
Oh, totally. For me I think the biggest thing that I got into were – Whatshername wears pink lacy boots, Doc Martens. I never used to wear stuff like that and now I’m like ‘ohmygod those are so awesome’. I feel like I could incorporate them into my wardrobe. Another big thing for me was, a lot of my costuming is leggings with a long shirt over it. That wasn’t really my thing, but now I love it. I feel like it’s really fierce looking. And it doesn’t have to look “workout”. You can make it look really cute, which I learned with the pairing that [Andrea] does – adding a leather jacket or a longer vest to a pair of leggings and a shirt.
Have you ever seen that movie Fame? The original one, not the remake.
I didn’t see the original, but I did see the remake.
Well after the original I went through a leggings phase… Because all the dancers wore leggings.
Yeah! (laughs in agreement)
You have both a primary role and an understudy role. What is that like to have these two different characters? Does it feel different?
I’ve gotten to do both of my [understudy] roles, Whatshername and Extraordinary Girl, which has been great. It definitely feels different. Whatshername has short skirts and cut-off shirts. She’s this down to earth girl. Extraordinary Girl is in the army, so most of her costumes are fatigues, and then when she’s flying she wears a genie costume, which is really cool. (ed note: that scene is amazing.) And especially that costume – I’m a Disney freak and I’m obsessed with Aladdin. So when I’m in hat pink costume. I’m like ‘ohmygod, I’m Jasmine!’
That was an incredible scene!
It was so fun to learn, and it was so fun to do it. The only scary part is when she’s hanging upside down. In the beginning that role hangs upside down for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. But all the flying is really cool.
With each character, [Andrea] so specifically made the costumes different. When I’m in those Whatshername thigh-highs with those high boots you just feel like Whatshername. It’s so awesome.
I noticed most of the cast members were wearing super, super, super tight jeans. Were those hard to get into? (ed note: especially the dudes, it looked like they were poured into their jeans, as my mom likes to say.)
Especially the guys. We have a lot of big guys in the show, really muscle-y. It’s so funny to watch them try to wiggle into skinny jeans. We have wash days – those days they’re a little tighter after being in the dryer so I’ll roll [my jeans] around and throw them around. They’re such fast costume changes every single time, I don’t have time to fight with my jeans. But it’s not too bad.
Do people ever have to help you get the costumes on?
Totally. There is one dresser per 3 people. And she’s always back there waiting for us, unzipping and zipping, helping pull on our pants and knee-pads. She always has every new costume set on our chair backstage. Everyone has a station. You run to your station, throw off your clothes, throw on your costume, then run back on stage. You don’t have much time to sit there and breath or tie your shoelaces. I think all our shoelaces are actually elastic.
What was your favorite costume in the entire cast?
I’m the only girl in the number called Death of St. Jimmy, and I wear this amazing vinyl bubble dress – when St. Jimmy comes out at the end of the show. I’m wearing a vinyl dress with tulle underneath and I have a hat with a veil on my face. It is the coolest. And I have the tall boots on. I love, love that costume. That’s what I had on Broadway and I was hoping [Andrea] would keep it, and she did. That one is my favorite.
Before watching the show I was thinking about 90s clothing, and when Green Day was really big what people were wearing. I was wondering if I was going to see lots of flannel or bootcut jeans But then it was really not like that. I saw combat boots, Doc Martens, skinny jeans, and I kind of realized that “rocker chic” or the rebellious look hasn’t really changed that much.
Yeah, not really!
I was wondering what you thought about that – wearing black, ripped clothing, etc.
I don’t think [Andrea] was really going for 90s, but I do know what you mean because I grew up in the 90s. But what I feel like when I put on my [costume] is, ‘I don’t give a shit what you think, but I’m going to wear what I wear.’ Each costume I have really does speak true to that. And our costume designer really did get to know us a little. She picked things that she thought matched our personality if we were that type of person. I did say I was a little girlier, and in the first two numbers all the other girls are in jeans and she has me in leggings and dresses. So I’m the girlie punk. It’s really cool that she does that because she doesn’t make you feel like you’re putting on too much of a ‘I’m a badass and I’m going to wear ripped jeans’ and all this stuff. She lets you be who you are within her idea. I feel the definition of punk really is saying ‘I don’t give a shit’. So that’s why I feel like everything and every costume is so different. Because that’s what [it's about]. I mean, I’ve never been a punk personally (ed note: me neither); but seeing kids at school, they fly the way they want to fly. That’s what’s so cool about that era. And of course Green Day music is saying ‘this is what I am, and I love it, and if you don’t love it, I don’t care.’