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Christian Louboutin stars in 'The Little Dog Laughed' at the Douglas

December 11, 2008 | 10:00 am

Julie White and Brian Henderson There’s a moment in Douglas Carter Beane’s satire “The Little Dog Laughed,” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, when closeted actor Mitchell (Brian Henderson) and hooker boy Alex (Johnny Galecki) realize they actually like each other. They quickly start shedding clothes until there's nothing left to shed. (Yes, that means they're naked.)

Just as they're about to get down to business, so to speak, Mitchell's slick Hollywood agent, Diane (Julie White), bursts into the room. The audience gasps. Culture Monster stares.

Now, stop it, you gutter-minds out there — Culture Monster, at least, isn’t talking about the boys in the buff (that's why you're seeing a photo, right, of Diane with Mitchell after he's dressed again). It's Diane's shoes. And not just any shoes: Christian Louboutins.

For those of you who aren't Shoe Monsters, Culture Monster can tell you that Louboutins generally start at about $500 (if you're lucky) and run into the thousands. In the course of the two-hour play, White slips into four different pairs of the spiky-heeled, red-soled treasures. 
Now, everyone knows high style comes at a price — a tab that's generally more than is budgeted for a four-character play that isn’t about fashion. Fortunately, costume designer Jeff Mahshie has connections: He is a big-time fashion guy who just happens to be pals with Louboutin from when the shoe designer did his runway shows.

For the two New York productions, Louboutin loaned the shoes gratis. When it came time to mount the West Coast premiere, however, "I couldn’t ask him again," Mahshie says. "So for this production, I used the majority of my budget for shoes. It’s one of those things that really helps you become the character — those little things that a costumer can do to help an actor realize their character."

So why Louboutins instead of, say, a less expensive Manolo? "I chose to use him because he's the insider brand. I thought it was a good fit for Diane because she's the ultimate insider," Mahshie says. "Plus, they're beautiful shoes, and I wanted her to look chic and beautiful."

He didn’t skimp when it came to the footwear for the other cast members. The vintage Double RL (Ralph Lauren) motorcycle boots that Galecki’s character whips on and off cost almost as much as the Louboutins, Mahshie says, adding that he had to search for a long time to find them. Zoe Lister-Jones dons Marc Jacobs (“It’s younger and a little more trend-conscious”), as well as a private label flat and a Gunmetal shoe made for Halle Berry to wear at an awards show.

By the way, the clothes aren’t shabby either: White is clad in some of Mahshie’s own designs, and the guys are wearing Dior and Gucci (check out Galecki’s vintage Gucci leather jacket).  And don’t think there was any skimping on the handbags: Judith Lieber in the opening scene and Louis Vuitton later.

The designer admits he had to negotiate on the budget, but director Scott Ellis "knew the impact that clothes had on the production. He really made it happen."

White, Mahshie says, is the “perfect runway size. She can wear anything and is willing to wear anything.” Plus, she’s a trouper when it comes to her footwear — especially in the final scene, pictured below: “She really, really suffers to do that shoe. The shoes are sky-high and the dress — especially the last scene — is skintight.”

For what it’s worth, we have it on good authority that at the play's opening night party, Julie White slipped into "flat, flat, flat open sandals."

— Lisa Fung

Top photo: Julie White and Brian Henderson. Below: Zoe Lister-Jones, White and Henderson. Bottom photo: White, wearing the Louboutins. Credit: Craig Schwartz.

Zoe Lister-Jones, Julie White and Brian Henderson

Julie White in her Louboutins