Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole Star as Cosmetics Magnates
The new musical War Paint
is now up and running at the Nederlander Theatre. The show is based on the real life story of two twentieth century cosmetics industry magnates: Elizabeth Arden, played by Christine Ebersole (Grey Gardens
, Blithe Spirit
), and Helena Rubinstein, played by Patti LuPone (Gypsy
, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
). This show, which had its world premiere in the summer of 2016 at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, comes to Broadway with the same leading ladies as that debut under the direction of Michael Greif (Dear Evan Hansen
, Next to Normal
). The show has undergone some transformation since the Chicago premiere, such as a glitzier opening number, but the bulk of the show remains intact, offering an excellent platform for the two glorious stars to showcase their comedic and vocal talents. Despite general acclaim for the superior performances of these tried and true triple threats, the show itself received mixed reviews, especially regarding the substance and captivation of the stories presented in the musical.
“War Paint” Showcases Talented Performers, but the Critical Response was Mixed
In response to seeing the show for the second time in the Broadway production, Ben Brantley of the New York Times gave a review that offered praise to LuPone and Ebersole, but ultimately concluded that the show left much to be desired. He remarked that the songs were oddly detailed in terms of the components of the face creams and other minutiae of the cosmetics industry that are likely of little interest to Broadway theatregoers, and he concluded that the undeniable talents of LuPone and Ebersole kept a showing moving forward that might have otherwise felt like running in place in heels. Marilyn Stasio of Variety was also mixed in her response, concluding that the best thing in the show were the period costumes by Catherine Zuber. She offered the advice that if the names Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein mean nothing to you, then this is not your show. Other reviewers were more enthusiastic, such as Caitlin Brody from Entertainment Weekly, who referred to perfectly lacquered claws in describing the ferocity of the women leading this musical, portrayed by performances by LuPone and Ebersole that she described as flawless. Linda Winer from Newsday was also a big fan, contrasting the glistening steel of LuPone’s vocal chops with the biting creaminess of Ebersole’s. Still, Joe Dziemianowicz from New York Daily News was not in love with the production, admitting that the performances are great, but concluding that the material is only skin deep.
Weekly Box Office Crossed Million Dollar Mark for First Time
This past week, the week ending April 23, 2017, War Paint
demonstrated some signs of improvement at the box office. For the first time, the weekly gross surpassed the million dollar mark, with the total amounting to $1,042,449, which represents 82.68% of the show’s gross potential. With a top ticket price of $248.00, the average paid admission was $123.24, which also was the first time the average ticket was higher than $108.00. The average audience capacity was 90.5%, which is in line with the capacity throughout the run. Therefore, this demonstrates that theatregoers are more willing to pay for non-discounted tickets than ever before, perhaps due to the words of praise, especially for the performances of Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, which came out in the post-opening reviews. In general, the opening was an occasion for buzz to spread, and in the week before the Tony nominations are to be announced, it is a big boost of confidence for the show that the weekly gross passed the one million dollar mark for the first time.