Ryan Park

November 2023 View more

Our golden ticket to meet Willy Wonka’s costume designer

Ryan Park

If you had to guess, how many costumes does one musical theater show require, specifically Paramount Theatre’s current production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? (Oompa-Loompas included.)

25? 75? 100?

The answer is a whopping 150 costumes. That’s a lot to fashion for this musical take on Roald Dahl’s 1964 children’s novel about a boy who wins a chance to tour Willy Wonka’s fantasy-like chocolate factory, a story chock-full of crazy confections and characters.

Thankfully, costume designer Ryan Park was up to the task. You might recall his creations from Paramount’s production of Kinky Boots, for which Park won a 2022 Jeff Award. Originally from Pittsburgh and now based in New York City, Park got his start designing costumes for his high school’s plays and musicals. As he succinctly puts it: “It stuck, I guess.”

It sure has. He’s built a career in theater, opera, TV, film, and live entertainment, including work on more than 20 Broadway shows. In addition to Paramount, his Chicago-area credits include Drury Lane’s Beauty and the Beast, Evita, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (sounds like a dream job for a costumer, right?).

We caught up with Park to learn more about his colorful designs for the Charlie cast.

Sketches of Mike Teavee, Veruca Salt, Charlie, Augustus Gloop, and Violet Beauregarde by Ryan Park
Clockwise from left: Mike Teavee, Veruca Salt, Charlie, Augustus Gloop, and Violet Beauregarde

Q: What was your creative vision for these costumes?
A: We’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from Tim Burton and Bo Welch. We’ve wanted to create something colorful, playful, fun, and exciting while still giving a nod to some of the darker tones in the story.

Q: Describe your design process.
A: I always start with reading the play and original material—in this case, the Roald Dahl children’s book. Then I discuss the show with the director to understand what direction they’re interested in taking the piece. From there I do research and storyboard out the show, hand-draw and paint sketches. We then have to budget out the show, figure out what is being made, what we shop.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about working on Charlie? And what’s been the most difficult?
A: It’s been really fun to work on such an iconic story where I’ve had the opportunity to put my spin on these characters and this cast. That’s also the most challenging part—most people have some relationship to the movie versions or the book, so there’s the expectation to present them with something that stands up.


Sketches: Ryan Park. Photo: Amy Nelson (portrait)