There’s a lot of magic behind the scenes of a Broadway show and everyone has their tricks for making sure it all runs smoothly. Shana Albery, who’s worked as a wardrobe supervisor for productions like Finian’s Rainbow, Memphis, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, gave us some of her backstage tricks… for shoes! Here are her 10 shoe tips to help you run your high school production like a Broadway show.
1. Struggling with laced shoes during a quick-change?
Ditch the shoelaces for elastic ones or elastic yardage that you cut down to size. Once you tie them, you’ll never have to untie them again! They’ll stay tied and performers will be able to slide in and out of them with ease.
2. Use a bra hook in place of a buckle.
No, seriously! Rig a quick-release for buckled shoes by attaching a bra hook where the buckle normally goes and leave the buckle on the shoe’s strap, wherever it’s comfortable and not too tight when you wear it. The bra hook will hook right on the strap and stay held in place by the buckle!
3. Shoes too small?
Stop suffering! If a shoe is too tight, use a shoe stretch spray or rubbing alcohol on the problem areas and wear a sock to help the shoe stretch out to your foot size. Be sure to wear the shoe as much as possible to help it break in quicker.
4. …or too big?
If your shoes go flying when you jump during a number, use an insole or a metatarsal pad to push your foot back towards the heel for a more fitted feeling. You can also use a padded heel grip, which will “fill in the back a little bit if it’s a smidge too big.”
5. Paint the rainbow.
Even Broadway doesn’t always have the budget for custom shoes! You can use rubbing alcohol or acetone to strip your shoe down to its bare leather, then use acrylic paints to customize it. You can also paint them over and over again for every show you do!
Extra tip: “If you’re mixing paint colors, mix it in a little jar so you have the same color for any future touch-ups.”
6. “You can always decorate a shoe.”
Especially if you’re doing a historical production. Find the right-shaped shoe for the period at a local store or online and add bows, buckles, or buttons. You can also use a glue gun to make ornate designs on the shoe, then paint over them!
7. Save lives. Rubberize.
“Hard leather soles are not a great idea for safety’s sake, they can be a little slippery on stage.” We agree. Make sure your shoes have rubber soles to minimize any potential injuries. If they’re hard soled, you can take them to a shoe repair shop to have rubber added. This also works great if your shoes are particularly noisy on stage.
8. Don’t struggle with boots.
If boots are part of your costume, get ones that have either a zipper or an elastic side for easy removal. You can take them to a shoe repair shop to have a zipper installed or use a boot jack, which uses your body weight to remove a boot. This is especially nice if you’re removing them yourself.
9. Polish patent leather… with Windex! Who knew?
“The guys had patent leather shoes at the end of A Chorus Line, so a bottle of Windex and a pile of paper towels lived in the shoe kit.” For other shoe types, you can use a regular polish to give them that shine. This trick is especially handy if your shoes live in the back of your closet for most of the school year.
10. Repair when needed.
The industry used barge cement in the past when the sole or rubber started to separate from the shoe, but they’re now switching to E6000*. Just apply it to both sides, wait until it’s tacky, then hold it together until the glue sets. You’ll be ready to dance again in no time.
*Handle any chemicals with extreme care! The state of CA says E6000 may cause cancer if not handled properly.
And voilà! You’ve got new shoe tricks to try out for your next show. You’ll learn what works best for each high school production, but you’ll be doing it like Broadway in no time. Break a leg!
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