After the disaster of last week's episode, a theatrical challenge inspired some exciting designs. We're back!

By Stephan Lee
Updated February 17, 2012 at 06:01 AM EST
Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Project Runway All Stars

S1 E7
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I had my crankypants on after last week’s horribly disappointing episode, but this week’s fun, Broadway-themed challenge put me in a good mood. Sure, I miss Rami — without him, there’s that much less potential to see a stunning design — but the designers proved that sometimes they just need to be given the right inspiration. Hear that, producers?

For that inspiration, the designers trekked to Circle in the Square theater in Midtown where the Godspell revival was in production. Angela Lindvall towered over Stephen Schwartz, the composer of Godspell and other blockbuster shows like Wicked (I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’m such a Wicked geek!), who was on hand to announce the challenge. They had to design an outfit composed of separates to be worn by Uzo Aduba’s character in the play, a very rich woman who likes to show off her wealth. The outfit had to be colorful and ostentatious in an exaggerated way and still look beautiful — but also feel thrift-store-like, according to Stephen. Vintage and timeless, in other words. “It should feel like I’m really rich,” Uzo clarified. Basically, design an outfit for the type of woman who’d say, “I’m rich, bitch!” The challenge should suit some of the more theatrical personalities — namely Austin Scarlett and Michael — really well. (By the way, what was that terrible bathing cap Kenley was wearing in the theater? You think you can pull something like that off, Kenley, but you can’t. You just can’t).

Cut to: Joanna Coles’ workroom visit. I always love me some Joanna, but I thought she was on fire tonight with her brilliant compliments-that-are-kind-of-insults, and she’s been blessed with the most expressive face, which conveys every emotion other than joy. Despite her intimidating exterior, it’s clear that she cares about the designers. She first stopped at Austin Scarlett’s table, and after examining his “baroque, rococo” brocaded fabrics, she said, “I love how it straddles the line of hideous and fabulous. Right now it’s hideous but you’re going to turn it into something fabulous, right?” Oh snap, Joanna knows how to light a fire under an ass. You can bet Austin Scarlett was telling himself “Fabulous not hideous, fabulous not hideous” the rest of the day. It was then Kara’s turn to be turned into a quivering blob of jelly. Joanna doled out some tough love: “This [maxi dress] isn’t necessarily as ambitious as you need to be an All-Star.” Exactly, Joanna. That made Kara cry, but she needed to hear it.

Joanna pointed out some other stuff, like the fact that Kenley would be making her first polka dot-free look of the season (that’s a seriously disturbing statistic), but I barely heard any of it because Joanna revealed that she was ONCE IN A PRODUCTION OF GODSPELL!! Whoa, I would pay money for a copy of that VHS or old-timey film reel (Joanna Coles defies age).

NEXT: Jerrell somehow escapes the bottom once again… how does he keep doing this??Sutton Foster, Broadway diva and star of Anything Goes, was on hand in a girly pink dress as guest judge. It’s amazing that this stage actress made for a much better judge than big-time fashion insider Cynthia Rowley, who was honestly terrible last week. Let the show begin!

Jerrell – SAFE

Ugh. I can’t decide what this look reminds me of more: an evil stepmother dress or an outfit that a female mouse would wear in a Disney animated film set in the wild West. Either way, this attractive young model looked like a chunky old frumpwitch in marm garb. She looked as if she were ready to pour arsenic in someone’s soup. The whole color scheme screamed “rat fur” to me. Okay, I could go on but I’ll spare you. Bottom line: I hated this look, and it belonged in the bottom. Yet as would surprise no one, Jerrell was proud of himself and absolutely confident in his old lady frock. Something tells me this escaped the bottom because Isaac thought it was the best look of the night while the other judges hated it. That just sounds like an opinion Isaac would have.

Michael – TOP

I liked this look — it was fun, flamboyant, and I loved the detailing of the skirt. I agreed with Georgina, though, that it could have been even more eccentric and that the whole ensemble relied to heavily on the hat for whimsy.

NEXT: This week’s winning look is a stunner…Austin – TOP

You know, it was interesting, but I didn’t like this one quite as much as the judges did. The silvery part hung so loosely from the model’s shoulders that it sort of reminded me of a kid wearing a sandwich board, and everything else — all that black — just kind of looked like plain old tights. Georgina compared it to a modern Marie Antoinette, which was exactly what Austin Scarlett was going for. While giving his critique, Isaac accidentally referred to Austin Scarlett as “Austin Starlet,” and Austin Scarlett made sure to point out the mistake (my effort to always refer to Austin Scarlett by first and last name got really hard there). The previews made it seem as though this exchange would turn into a tense runway argument, but it was all goodnatured and drama-free. Damn.

Mondo – WINNER

Wow, this is the Mondo we’ve been waiting for! It has to be one of the best looks of the season so far. The jacket is one of the best single pieces to come out of Runway in a long, long time — it’s just costume-y and Hocus Pocus-y enough for this challenge while still remaining fashionable. Earlier in the workroom, Mondo said he had to go to a “dark place” in order for him to do his best work. Well, I hope he finds a fly in his cereal before next week’s challenge (luckily, it doesn’t seem to take much to put Mondo in a dark place). Isaac thought it looked like it took a long time to make and that it was “passive-aggressively sexy.” Huh? The dress underneath the skirt was gorgeous as well, almost tribal. It reminded me of one of Anya’s dresses from last season, only much better constructed and way more complex with the chiffon layering on the bottom.

NEXT: Kenley shows what she can do without polka-dots…Kenley – LOW

I agreed with Kenley in that I could see a certain kind of woman wearing this outfit, but I also agreed with Georgina and Isaac that the outfit really didn’t feel special enough for the challenge — Kenley made something wearable, but she didn’t elevate the clothes into anything more. Georgina thought the coat was cut well but there were too many patterns and elements going on. Angela hit the nail on the head by pointing out that Kenley got the eccentricity of the character but not the “rich” part. The whole thing looked like a nice bargain basement find.

Mila – BOTTOM

Holy Russian prostitute, this was a disaster. Whoever this girl is, she doesn’t speak English and her knowledge of American culture is based solely on rap music videos. Jerrell hit the nail on the head by calling her the girl who can’t get into the club. The judges were too nice about the top of this outfit — sure, the skirt was the biggest disaster, but everything from the hair to the chunky gold jewelry (especially that tree-shaped air freshener necklace) was so very wrong. Sutton Foster was cute saying she looked like “someone who may walk the streets.” That’s one way to put it.

NEXT: Kara, you disappointed us…Kara – OUT

Yikes. I’d say this look was maybe — maybe — slightly better than Mila’s, but it’s hard to say. It doesn’t help that Kara’s model is the skinniest, angriest-looking model of them all. It seems as though the only trick Kara has up her sleeve is to surprise the judges with a flash of red. Well, honey, a primary color isn’t enough to keep us interested. Isaac gave a backhanded compliment if there ever was one: “This is the best you’ve done.” Ouch. Georgina pointed out proportion and execution issues, and Angela hated the clunky bow in the front.

I was weirded out by Angela’s kiss-off to Kara. “These are always [first kiss] the things we grow from [second kiss].” I hope she doesn’t try to make that into her catchphrase. That’s no auf wiedersehen.

All in all, even though Mila’s look might have been slightly worse, I can’t complain about Kara’s elimination. Actually, I don’t think any of the women are very long for this competition — they’ve simply been outclassed by the guys with the possible exception of Jerrell. I really expected more from Kara. She was a standout in her original season, but she didn’t prove she had the chops this time around. I couldn’t help but imagine what amazing things Rami could have done with this challenge.

Your turn! How did the designers do? How amazing was Mondo’s look? Do you agree that Kara deserved to go instead of Mila?

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Project Runway All Stars

Past Runway designers compete for the top prize.
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