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Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole Star in "War Paint" at the Nederlander Theatre
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Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole Star in "War Paint" at the Nederlander Theatre

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Nederlander Theatre
Under the Direction of James L. Nederlander

David Stone, Marc Platt
et al. and
Goodman Theatre

Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole
War Paint
(War Paint Website)

Book by Doug Wright
Music by Scott Frankel
Lyrics by Michael Korie

Inspired by:
“War Paint” by Lindy Woodhead
“The Powder & The Glory” by Ann Carol Grossman/Arnie Reisman

John Dossett and Douglas Sills
And an ensemble of actors/singers/dancers

At the
Nederlander Theatre
208 West 41st Street
New York, NY

Directed by Michael Greif
Choreography by Christopher Gattelli
Orchestrations by Bruce Coughlin
Music Director: Lawrence Yurman
Music Coordinator: Michael Keller
Scenic Design: David Korins
Costume Design: Catherine Zuber
Lighting Design: Kenneth Posner
Sound Design: Brian Ronan
Wig Design: David Brian Brown
Makeup Design: Angelina Avallone
Casting: Telsey + Company
Production Stage Manager: Tripp Phillips
General Management: 321 Theatrical Management
Company Manager: Tracy Geltman
Press Representative: Polk & Co.
Production Management: Juniper Street Productions

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 9, 2017

The Goodman Theatre production of War Paint, about the rivalry between two women, Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden, who, beneath all the public and private insults, truly respected the strength and prowess of the other, is one of the classiest, most sophisticated, and most satisfying shows on Broadway this season. Patti LuPone is Rubenstein, who grew up on a Polish shtetl, and Christine Ebersole is Arden, who grew up on a Canadian prairie. Both actors have an uncanny resemblance to these actual titans of the 1930’s-1960’s American cosmetics industry. And, both actors have the exquisite talent to command the stage within their respective sets of elegant office, enchanting showroom, and luxurious homes. Ms. LuPone’s vocal talents are propulsive and thrilling, while Ms. Ebersole’s vocal talents are transporting and luminescent.

In this Doug Wright (book), Scott Frankel (music), Michael Korie (lyrics) production, by the same team that created Grey Gardens on Broadway in 2007, poignant and lush duets bring Arden and Rubenstein, who actually never met and never uttered the name of their feared competitor, together in brilliantly conceived, combined musicality (“My American Moment”, “If I’d Been a Man”). The inevitable glass ceiling for women, mid-20th century, had been shattered by these two marketing masterminds, Arden using pink packaging, and Rubenstein using scientific ingredients, but they were still subjected to sexist discrimination (Arden), antisemitism (Rubenstein) and societal limitations of notorious acclaim. Both Arden and Rubenstein assisted the World War II efforts with financial and business support, but when Arden tried to join an upper-crust country club, which she was donating to, she was rejected for financial success that was earned on her own. Women were supposed to be wealthy by birth or marriage, not self-made through savvy and sacrifice.

Tommy Lewis (a marvelous John Dossett), married to Arden, who keeps her own name, tires of his subservient role in his wife’s firm and lands at Rubenstein’s firm, spilling trade secrets and spitting revenge. Likewise, Harry Fleming (a confident Douglas Sills), Rubenstein’s gay assistant, tires of his boss’ tirades and lands at Arden’s firm, yes, spilling secrets and spitting revenge. The show’s book is based on Lindy Woodhead’s dual biography, War Paint, and on the related documentary, “The Powder & The Glory”. There’s a scene from the St. Regis, in which Rubenstein and Arden spy on each other’s conversation while sipping tea at a banquette, and a final scene is created by the production team to fantasize about a grand awards reception for both women in the twilight of their careers, where they finally meet and, at least in gesture, reconcile for the moment. Those gestures were magnificent and memorable.

During this substantial, two-act production, the audience’s eyes are riveted on David Korins’ incomparable set, with rows of pink-lit bottles and plush backdrops for Arden’s salon, and rows of smoky grey-lit bottles and sleek backdrops for Rubenstein’s salon. Rubenstein holds court in a designer, deco bedroom, and Arden’s red door and both corporate offices, along with the stunning St. Regis restaurant décor, are worthy of a second visit to this remarkable show. Enhancing these sets, adding colorful and opaque glamor to the rows upon rows of stacked bottles of cosmetics, is Kenneth Posner’s detailed lighting design. The spotlights on each woman in opposite banquettes were warm and glowing. Brian Ronan’s sound design brings the mesmerizing tunes right up to the front mezzanine, where press was sitting tonight. In fact, the view from above allowed us to fully focus on Catherine Zuber’s multitude of fanciful hats, chic suits (Arden), glamorous jewelry (Rubenstein), and ensemble costumes of high fashion or salon uniforms and lab coats.

Michael Greif, Director, kept the scene changes between the competitive salons efficiently seamless. More importantly, he maximized the seasoned, expressive talents of Ms. LuPone and Ms. Ebersole. Christopher Gattelli, Choreographer, moved the ensemble in understated dance, no big tap dance numbers, but the World War II red, white, blue scene roused the crowd. A final lead character, Charles Revson (Erik Liberman), becomes pivotal, as the symbolic prophet of drugstore cosmetic stranglehold on women’s shopping patterns, by the 1960’s, along with the advent of television advertising. His company was named Revlon. Kudos to Christine Ebersole, kudos to Patti LuPone, and kudos to the team that brought us this fantastic show.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at