MANSFIELD — Patrons attending the performances of "White Christmas" at the Renaissance Theatre this month will have an up-close experience with a genuine piece of Hollywood memorabilia.
The Rosemary Clooney House, home of the largest collection of "White Christmas" memorabilia in the world, has loaned the Renaissance Theatre an original costume worn in the 1954 movie. The costume will be on display in the Renaissance lobby during the theater's production of "White Christmas" on Nov. 12, 14, 19 and 21.
Rosemary Clooney brought to life the iconic role of Betty Haynes in the 1954 film production of "White Christmas." The costume on loan to the Renaissance was never worn by Clooney herself, but appears alongside her in the musical number "Mandy" worn by an ensemble member.
According to development director Bobby Rhea, it was by stroke of luck the Renaissance was able to acquire the costume at all.
"The only reason this piece was available is because they literally just acquired it; the entire White Christmas collection is on loan to a museum in Wisconsin until January," Rhea said. "So this is literally the only piece they could loan us at this time, which is pretty awesome."
Rhea made the 3.5 hour drive to Augusta, Kentucky on Thursday to retrieve the costume from Clooney's historic home, which preserves her legacy through an extensive collection of exhibits and displays dedicated to the singer's life and career.
The house was restored and opened to the public thanks to the efforts of Dr. Steve Henry, former Lt. Governor of Kentucky, and his wife Heather French Henry, a former Miss America who has also competed in the Miss Ohio pageant. With the demolition of the Beverly Hills home, it is now the only Rosemary-owned home still standing.
Using white gloves, Rhea and costume designer Linda Turske inspected the costume after it arrived at the Renaissance on Thursday. The fabric has faded from its once-vibrant red color, but Turske said it was very well made.
"It was very much built to stay on so she could do any kind of thing she wanted to do," Turske said. "The sequins would have been individually glued on the ribbon and gloves.
"The headpiece, this was before you could buy wired ribbon so they would've made a casing of this ribbon and then run a nice heavy-duty wire through there so they could shape the headpiece the way they wanted it to be," she explained.
Turske also noted the costume appeared very small to fit a grown woman, but that it was made to fit the smaller build of a woman in the 1950s.
"We didn't have as big of a ribcage as what we have now, we've become more muscular in our shape and build," Turske said. "1950s women also wore undergarments that shaped their body and pulled their waist in. Patterns today are still based on that model of women in the 50s."
Patrons will be asked to observe a few rules around the costume: No flash photography, no touching, and please maintain a respectful distance. The garment will be returned to Augusta the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
"Something that has been my goal from day one is to make events at the Renaissance more memorable so people have an experience more than just seeing the show," Rhea said. "When this came across my desk, spontaneously, I wanted to go for it."
The costume on loan was made possible in part thanks to a generous financial contribution from Miller's Diamond Jewelry.
Tickets for "White Christmas" at the Renaissance Theatre are available online at rentickets.org or over-the-phone at 419-522-2726 ext. 200. Student and child tickets are available for $15.