Rehearsals for the Toowoomba Choral Society’s latest production of Fiddler on the Roof are well underway. Some cast members drift out of the main hall, some are going for a fitting, while others emerge wearing Imperial Russian-style skirts to practice one of the dance numbers.

Inside the costume house, the society’s wardrobe supervisor and costume designer, Debra Nairn is surrounded by the tools of her trade – folded material, sewing machines, the ubiquitous needle and thread, the occasional voluntary seamstress and a thespian or two. While the Toowoomba Choral Society (TCS) has been an integral part of the city’s musical landscape since the 1930s, Ms Nairn has been the sartorial stalwart for more than two decades. Fiddler on the Roof will be her 26th show with the society. “I count that as 46 shows all up and it makes me feel tired just thinking about it,” she said.

Her interest in sewing and design began much earlier, however. “I grew up in New Zealand with two professional dressmakers and loved making doll clothes and dolls. It seemed like a fairly natural progression to move to theatre costumes.” Before she started her career with TCS, she was also involved with costuming in 21 Empire Theatre shows and has received many accolades for her innovative design over the years. Stage Whispers reviewer Peter Pinne described her costumes in The Empire Theatre’s production of The Pirates of Penzance as “a treat, right down to the glittering slippers on the Fabulous Singlettes.”

Currently, Ms Nairn is busy preparing for the TCS’ June production of Fiddler on the Roof. “This is the second time I’ve done Fiddler with the TCS and it is a wonderful, classical musical full of Russian and Jewish style costumes dating from the early 1900s.” The Toowoomba Choral Society has been creating musical theatre in Toowoomba for more than 60 years and will this year produce three musicals – Fiddler on the Roof, My Son Pinocchio: Geppetto’s Musical Tale and Hello, Dolly!

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