By the time the creative team of the Tarnished Frocks and Divas 2019 show have completed the rehearsal and five show season they will have sent 884 styled heads on to the stage.

As creative directors of design Jason and Penny Davies and Shelley Pullar have a mammoth task of pulling together the 'look' of the 2019 Tarnished Frocks and Divas show due to open September 25.

This team from A.DO hairdressers are no strangers to performance pressure. They were finalists in best salon design at the Hair Expo Awards Australia 2018. They regularly style for NZ Fashion Week. "That's a walk in the park compared to T F and D," laughs Shelley.

"The greatest hair and makeup endurance test," adds Jason.

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"The Tour de France of hair and makeup," Shelley quips back.

Jason and Penny Davies have contributed creatively to Tarnished Frocks and Divas since the first show in 2005, Shelley joining the team several shows ago. The 2019 show is dramatically different from the inaugural performance.

The original hair and headdress stylists were a small team made up of local hairdressers.

"When the show moved to the stadium in 2013 it exploded and we could sense that we would be under pressure," says Jason, referencing their ever-expanding role to this year's as creative directors of design.

The 2019 team is made up of 25 professionals and trainees. In gathering the talent required Jason saw an opportunity a few shows back to involve the hairdressing academies in the Bay.

He made a video presentation as an induction which clearly showed the level of creativity and commitment required.

As a result, many talented trainee hairdressers have had the opportunity to be involved in a creative endeavour they might not otherwise experience in their careers.

"This is no doubt the biggest gig in the Bay of Plenty; there's no other platform like it,' enthuses Jason.

"This show pushes our boundaries, lets us try new ideas and allows pure theatricality."

Shelley Pullar, Penny Davies and Jason Davies
Shelley Pullar, Penny Davies and Jason Davies

Jason may be a right-brain (imaginative) thinker but he applies a lot of left-brain logic and rationality to his role of orchestrating the T F and D design. You don't expect to hear words like processes and systems from a creative personality but Jason points out that without clear structure it would be chaos.

The team started work on the 2019 show late last year. They have a dedicated workroom already filling with flights of fancy which enhance every aspect of the show.

"We design for the lead characters, the singers, the models and the dancers, working closely with the costume design team led by Vicki Reid and with Tracey Fellingham and her make up team," says Jason.

Those familiar with the show will know that illustrating the overall theme are breakout model walks and dance sequences. Each has its own design team.

"Our headdresses may be inspired by the clothing, the music and often by brainstorming in an environment of trust," they say. "There is no such thing as a silly idea."

Shelley, who brings her London trained millinery background to her role, points out that no matter how extravagant the headwear it must stay in place.

"It's theatre so the bigger the better, however they must be light and strong so
performers can be confident their heads won't drop off!"

Application must also be streamlined.

"Sometimes we work to a seven-minute turnaround."

In addition to her hair flair, Penny's expertise in pattern making is an asset when, while the performer's own hair is often part of the overall style, there is a lot of fantasy above and around it.

Penny also provides the communication channel between the creative team' s progress and the trustees who oversee the production of the show.

Most of the women wearing the creations have never performed in a show before. They rehearse in mufti most of the time and it can be only the week prior when they see their entire look.

"Of course, many are bundles of nerves," says Shelley.

"Then we put them in costume, add their headdress and suddenly see something unlock within. It's a sense of euphoria, a transformation."

It is this transformation that many in the audience, who have only known these beautiful strangers as wife, mother, friend or workmate, marvel at. Its this transformation that makes it so satisfying for everyone involved in staging Tarnished Frocks and Divas.

"We might be exhausted by the end, but we are also elated," says Jason.

the details
What: Tarnished Frocks and Divas 2019
Where: Trustpower Arena
When: September 25-28
Tickets on sale late May at Eventfinda
tarnishedfrocksanddivas.co.nz