Following a tryout run that became the most successful show in the Goodman Theatre’s history, War Paint will move from Chicago to Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre in March, becoming the latest contender in the fast-filling competition for this season’s Tony Award for Best Musical. The show, which stars stage royalty Patti LuPone (Showtime’s Penny Dreadful) and Christine Ebersole (USA’s Royal Pains) as make-up mavens Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden, respectively, is coming courtesy of Marc Platt (Mary Poppins Returns) and David Stone (Next To Normal), who as a team produced the global blockbuster Wicked, as well as If/Then and Three Days Of Rain.
The musical, co-starring John Dossett and Douglas Sills, is to begin previews March 7 and open April 6. Repeating as director is Michael Greif (Rent, Next To Normal, If/Then, Grey Gardens), working with a score by the Grey Gardens team of book writer Doug Wright, composer Scott Frankel and lyricist Michael Korie. Christopher Gattelli (Newsies, the upcoming SpongeBob The Musical) will repeat s choreographer. Additionally, it will have sets by David Korins, costumes by Catherine Zuber, lighting by Kenneth Posner, sound by Brian Ronan, orchestrations by Bruce Coughlin and music direction by Lawrence Yurman. The show follows the ferociously competitive women who built rival cosmetics empires; it’s inspired by Lindy Woodhead’s book of the same name and by the documentary film, The Powder & the Glory, by Ann Carol Grossman and Arnie Reisman.
The stars were universally acclaimed during the Chicago run. “[T]he pleasures of seeing and hearing Ebersole and LuPone…were understandably considerable,” Chicago Tribune critic Chris Jones wrote in a mostly positive review, adding that, “Frankel’s score and Korie’s dry, unstinting lyrics represent an extensive, lush and ambitious composition that embraces melancholy and truly borders on the operatic — it’s a weighty and complex suite of writing.
Jones added that “[t]he rivalry in real life was surely jagged and unpredictable; yet it is manifested in this show as overly neat…[T]he show has some delicious bons mots. Not the least of them is delivered by LuPone’s Rubinstein as she contemplates a ruby-red and indisputably phallic piece of lipstick, popping up out of its case: ‘There are no ugly women,’ she says, growling slightly to fit the moment, ‘only lazy ones.’ ”
Ebersole, for her part, was winning rave notices this week for her cabaret show, After the Ball, at New York’s Café Carlyle.
“When a new musical comes to Broadway starring a musical theater legend, it is newsworthy; when it arrives starring two legends, it is an event,” Stone said, in announcing the move. “The artistry, vocal virtuosity, and raw star power that Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole bring to their performances in War Paint thrilled both audiences and critics during our out of town run this summer…The creative team was also able to receive valuable feedback from both the press and Chicago audiences.”