War Paint

‘WAR PAINT’: Christine Ebersole & Patti LuPone. Photo: Joan Marcus

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WAR PAINT
Book by Doug Wright
Music by Scott Frankel
Lyrics by Michael Korie
Directed by Michael Greif
Choreography by Christopher Gattelli
Nederlander Theatre
208 West 41st Street
(877-250-2929), www.warpaintmusical.com

 

By David NouNou

Due to a scheduling mix-up, I had the good fortune to see War Paint as the last show of the season. After seeing so many movies turned into mediocre musicals, I can honestly say it was a thrill to enjoy this gem of an original musical. I am not saying it’s perfect, but for an audience that can remember the wonderful musicals of the 1950s and 1960s, this is as close as you can get to such wonderful heights.

With a witty book by Doug Wright, an excellent melodic score by Scott Frankel and Michael Korie (all three of Grey Gardens fame) and deft direction by Michael Greif, they have created a highly entertaining musical about world-renowned cosmeticians Helena Rubinstein (Patti LuPone) and Elizabeth Arden (Christine Ebersole).

Rubinstein was from a Polish shtetl and Arden came from a poor farm in Ontario, Canada. Both women came to America and reinvented themselves as the prima donnas of beauty. Madame Rubinstein, as she became known, catered to wealthy European immigrants, while Arden catered to New York society. They competed with each other for more than 50 years, never having met, but they revolutionized the beauty industry. In addition, they were the only females who owned their own businesses at the time. They had their ups and downs and unfortunately for them, they didn’t know when it was time to change with the times. When things were being re-branded for the young market, they clung to their “exclusive” roots.

I did mention earlier this is not a perfect musical and that’s because the two protagonists never met.  You have these two magnificent titans and there is no conflict between them; they just refer to each other as “the other one.”When you think of Grey Gardens, the two women were constantly together, thus creating the friction. Here you have two giants who live parallel lives and they don’t intersect, thus creating a vacuum.

However, when you have two legendary actresses the likes of Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, there is little to fret about the vacuum. These women know how to manipulate a line and an audience. Their presence and outstanding vocal gifts fill any gaps in the story line. Their performances are award worthy; they recently both received Tony nominations for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical, and deservedly so. I only wish that the score was nominated as well. Mr. Greif, the director, got the nomination for Dear Evan Hansen.

War Paint earned two additional nominations for the lovely costumes by Catherine Zuber and a sublime set by David Korins. Thanks to Mr. Korins, audiences finally get to see a realized set that moves like a Swiss watch and not some tacky cheap set that is moved by actors or stagehands. That was the norm back in Broadway’s golden years, with sets that moved effortlessly and transported you to another world. Thanks to War Paint and its creators and designers and especially to Ms. LuPone and Ms. Ebersole, we are transported again.

 

 

Edited by Scott Harrah
Published May 4, 2017
Reviewed at performance on May 3, 2017

War Paint

‘WAR PAINT’: Christine Ebersole, Patti LuPone & cast. Photo: Joan Marcus

War Paint

‘WAR PAINT’: Pattil LuPone. Photo: Joan Marcus

‘WAR PAINT’: (left to right) Jennifer Rias, Steffanie Leigh, Christine Ebersole, Mary Claire King, Stephanie Jae Park. Photo: Joan Marcus

‘WAR PAINT’: Douglas Sills & Patti LuPone. Photo: Joan Marcus

War Paint

‘WAR PAINT’: Christine Ebersole. Photo: Joan Marcus

‘WAR PAINT’: Douglas Sills & John Dossett. Photo: Joan Marcus

‘WAR PAINT’: Christine Ebersole & John Dossett. Photo: Joan Marcus

‘WAR PAINT’: Christine Ebersole & John Dossett. Photo: Joan Marcus

‘WAR PAINT’: Christine Ebersole. Photo: Joan Marcus

‘WAR PAINT’: Christine Ebersole. Photo: Joan Marcus

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