After seeing Glenn Close’s stunning performance in Sunset Boulevard, I realized just how much a fabulous performer can turn an ordinary Broadway show into a memorable one. So when I heard both of War Paint‘s lead actresses, Christine Ebersole and Patti LuPone, had been nominated for Tony Awards, I knew this would be a show worth seeing.
The musical chronicles the careers of trailblazing cosmetic icons Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, fierce rivals who ultimately had more in common than they realized.
And in a brillant marketing technique, the ladies room had amazing-smelling Elizabeth Arden products for theatergoers to sample!
The first act was cute, and it was fun seeing the show’s portrayal of how the cosmetic industry developed in the 20th century. Before these women came along only prostitutes wore makeup!
It was shocking to learn what horrific ingredients were first put into cosmetics before the companies were forced to label their ingredients on the bottle!
The first act was fun, and the second act started strong. However, after that the show began to drag.
The musical followed these two women to the conclusion of their careers, which ended around the same times as their lives, so it was a sad ending in a way. We got to see their cosmetic empires that were once great surpassed by the next big thing, and younger brands and leaders.
The show also asked the question of whether the cosmetics industry liberated women, or chained them to an even more idealized beauty standard. It also questioned whether the women leaders who drove this industry empowered women by shattering the glass ceiling, or whether these woman leaders just got ahead on the backs of common women who became slaves to the beauty industry. War Paint appeared to land on the darker answer to each of these questions.
“Cute” is the best word to describe War Paint. There are no big dance numbers or songs that stick in your head after you leave, but the acting was solid. However I wasn’t blown away by the performances in the same way I was with Glenn Close’s performance.
So if you’re looking for a fun, “cute” way to spend your evening, War Paint isn’t a bad pick. However, if you’re only able to see the occasional show on Broadway, I wouldn’t necessarily put this one on the top of your list.
You can get tickets to War Paint here.