It’s been a minute since a concert tour has generated quite the heat that Miley Cyrus’ “Bangerz” extravaganza did when it kicked off its 38-city run in Vancouver on Feb. 14. The buzz is as loud as a chain saw, with calculated provocations like the star getting down on her knees before a dancer in a Bill Clinton mask, and a wardrobe of bedazzled bodysuits and star-spangled booty shorts, and oversize hot dogs. And then there are the props, which include oversize bananas, giant foam fingers and a Statue of Liberty headpiece festooned with weed.
So just how did the glitzy hoedown come to be?
As another Clinton once said, it takes a village — in this case creative director Diane Martel and stylists/costume designers Simone Harouche and Lisa Katnic, who, along with the mischievous 21-year-old pop star and a crew of video directors, collectively created the tour’s look and feel down to each bejeweled boot strap.
“She wanted to have the most fun tour anyone has ever seen,” says Martel, the veteran music video director who helmed Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” clip. Martel, a former dancer-choreographer (as well as the niece of famed theater producer Joseph Papp), was appointed head of the Bangerz Tour in early November. “I grew up on theater,” she says. “My uncle produced ‘Hair’ and ‘A Chorus Line.’ My influences are from Ken Russell and Bob Fosse to John Waters and Paul Morrissey. I’m a Broadway baby and Miley is a showbiz superstar. We often refer to our live shows as ‘a tarrible, harrible school play.’ “
Martel calls the wardrobe “very Broadway- and Mackie-inspired.” In fact, Mackie’s designs for “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour” of 1973 served as a starting point. “We looked at those classic Mackie clothes and said, ‘Let’s do that and just add more sequins and more feathers,’ ” says Katnic. More feathers on top, but not the bottom: Instead of the plumage that Cher sported as chaps, they cut Cyrus’ leotard super high to accent her long legs and her “bad-ass, empowering sexuality,” says Katnic.
Harouche — who dressed Cyrus — reached out to a crew of five fairly edgy designers with whom Cyrus had already worked: Roberto Cavalli, The Blonds, Marc Jacobs, Jeremy Scott and Kenzo. Each submitted ideas, which were then vetted by the performer and her team before the designers were asked to submit sketches of proposed pieces.
Then it was Katnic’s job to outfit the backup dancers, including “Amazon Ashley,” who stands 6-foot-7-inches, and “Little Britney,” who’s 4 feet tall. “It was a challenge having dancers, each one with different measurements,” says Katnic. “But the bigger picture — that not one size fits all — is more important than the convenience factor for me.”
The audience also gets to feast their eyes on a whopping 10 wardrobe changes. “The bodysuits are used as a staple because of their on-and-off ease since they have to be completed in a mere 20 seconds a pop,” says Harouche.
So what does Harouche think of the controversy her costumes have kicked up?
“I don’t see what the big deal is. You’re supposed to take it and have fun with it. It’s not that serious,” she says.
Martel agrees. “[Miley is] very smart and very funny. She does not take being a pop star seriously at all.”
“That’s totally what makes it so good, that she’s this huge persona but she’s also able to laugh at herself,” adds Harouche. “She opens the stage coming down on a tongue. She’s in on the joke. So that’s why when people get so upset, I’m like, ‘How can you get so upset? It’s funny. Laugh.'”