Open run

War Paint

Members say: Great singing, Entertaining, Great acting, Disappointing, Slow
76
Critics
69
66 reviews
Members
77
685 reviews
 

Two-time Tony Award winners Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole come to Broadway in this new musical about rival cosmetic titans Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden.

... Read more

Brilliant innovators with humble roots, both women were masters of self-invention who sacrificed everything to become the country's first major female entrepreneurs. They were also fierce competitors whose 50-year tug-of-war would give birth to an industry. From Fifth Avenue society to the halls of Congress, their remarkable rivalry was ruthless, relentless, and legendary—pushing both women to build international empires in a world dominated by men. Costarring Tony nominees John Dossett and Douglas Sills, and directed by Tony nominee Michael Greif.

 
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Reviews (751)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
69
Avg Score

70
The New York Times

“Ms. Ebersole and Ms. LuPone go a great distance in disguising the show’s essential sameness. Ms. LuPone is as imposing as Rubinstein must have been, and presumably a whole lot funnier. Ms. Ebersole is equally formidable in a lighter vein. And Frankel and Korie have written numbers for their stars that cannily play to their separate but equal strengths…So, though my eyes occasionally glazed seeing ‘War Paint,’ I wouldn’t have missed it, if only to hear its leading ladies’ climactic ballads.” Full Review

75
Broadway News

"LuPone and Ebersole, giving performances of such resplendent force, wit and vivacity that the evening gleams like a freshly applied coat of nail polish...Enhanced by a sumptuous production directed by Greif...A nagging flaw in the show’s conception: the central narrative is largely undramatic, at times even superficial...When you have the opportunity to watch actors of this caliber, it’s easy to overlook many a superficial flaw, sit back and simply bask." Full Review

55
Theatermania

"A less-than-engaging musical book report...Unfortunately, Wright has not refined these raw ingredients into the finished product of a compelling drama. The fact that Arden and Rubinstein never actually met face-to-face is a problem he never really solves, sapping the story of much-needed drama...That's too bad because we get the sense that our two lead actresses are combat-ready...Michael Greif directs a visually stunning but dramatically lumbering production." Full Review

65
BroadwayWorld

“An important story that's certainly worthy of a first class treatment, and director Michael Greif's polished and professional production delivers...Ebersole radiates charming elegance…LuPone brings her gutsy brashness to Rubinstein…Each is granted an 11 o'clock number that showcases them royally…‘War Paint’ is gorgeously packaged, but doesn't quite accomplish its noble task. While the two enterprising women are honored, the material doesn't seep into the pores.” Full Review

60
NY1

“The two never actually met…What that means is a split-screen musical…Such pervasive parallelism, I’m afraid, saps the work of narrative or dramatic tension. Still, the score is a Gershwin and Irving Berlin-style pastiche of the first order, and the magnificent stars are in great voice, so you can ignore the dramatic void for a remarkably long time. Great stars, witty songs, chic design: ‘War Paint’ has an impressive façade. Just not much of a stunner under the makeup.” Full Review

75
Variety

"Luckily, there’s not much plot to distract from these carefully nuanced characters, their amazing careers and dazzling wardrobes...The music feels right for both the individual characters and the progressive time frames. The lyrics suit the characters and serve the plot. And the book is smart and literate...While much is made of their fierce competitive practices, there’s little at stake here, aside from the loyalties of their male partners." Full Review

60
Time Out New York

"There are two excellent reasons to see 'War Paint,' and their names are above the title...Otherwise, much of 'War Paint' is a blur. It has been crafted with intelligence and care by the team behind 2006’s poignant 'Grey Gardens'...Michael Greif's direction keeps it moving efficiently along. But the show doesn’t make a persuasive case that its stories must be told...'War Paint’s' nails, though attractively polished, only scratch its surface." Full Review

60
Lighting & Sound America

"Doug Wright's book sticks fairly closely to the contours of his subjects' lives, but, in trying to avoid creating a camp catfight, he has come up with a parallel plot structure that proves more confining than a lady's corset...Nevertheless, 'War Paint' will be irresistible to many -- for good reason -- thanks to the casting of LuPone and Ebersole...A lot of very fine work -- by some very gifted people -- has gone into 'War Paint,' but it adds up to little more than a skirmish." Full Review

65
New York Theater

"No, they can’t make it a great musical. But LuPone and Ebersole give star turns of equal weight. Most impressively, though they are portraying life-long rivals, these are bravura performances that don’t clash; they blend...Yet, for all its appeal, 'War Paint' does not surmount some logistical problems that are likely to make some of the scenes heavy-going to all but ardent students of the beauty industry that the two women helped create." Full Review

85
Cultural Weekly

“Tremendously satisfying…Wright offers a fascinating history of 20th century fashion and make-up as well as an insightful character study, directed with speed and style by Michael Greif…The score is sharp, funny, and intricate, employing the musical vocabulary of its various eras to convey rapid changes and emotional depths…LuPone and Ebersole command the stage separately but equally…John Dossett and Douglas Sills offer sturdy support as their right-hand men.” Full Review

65
Front Row Center

“We witness the extraordinary talents of Ebersole and Lupone. To hear them sing is to listen to the heavens break open and put down pure gold. Never mind that the music itself is not up to the grace of the voices that deliver it. These two women, like the giants they portray, keep their eye on the target every second they are onstage…What we don’t get, and why the writers did not take this risk is a mystery, is the two women squaring off face-to-face, war paint to war paint.” Full Review

40
Talkin' Broadway

"Not terrible, per se, but it's so scintillatingly boring that you'll spend more of the two-and-a-half-hour evening fight off an encroaching coma...Both performers unlock the steely and sympathetic sides of the women they're playing, so that the strength and the hurt are seldom far removed from each other...Their stories are worth telling and worth listening to, but not in the tedious form 'War Paint' so soullessly delivers them." Full Review

45
The Huffington Post

"Curiously un-involving even as a more refined, sophisticated attempt at a dual biography. It’s more Arden than Rubenstein in style, but neither woman comes out a winner...These two women are sung by two artists in peak form, with their voices perfectly suited to each character and sounding glorious...So why does 'War Paint 'remain so bloodless? No doubt, they left a lot of fun out of it by going highbrow...Yes, they sacrifice much in their personal lives...But it never cuts deep." Full Review

45
The Wall Street Journal

"The stars are starry, the sets are glossy, and the book is full of snappy one-liners. In the end, though, 'War Paint' fails to keep its costly promises...The plot fails to pass the who-cares test...Structurally rigid, dramaturgically overcrowded and emotionally tepid... LuPone and Ebersole are as good as you’d expect, Greif’s staging and the choreography are smooth and polished. In short, it looks like a winner—but as anyone in the cosmetics business can tell you, appearances are deceiving." Full Review

75
AM New York

"The musical is built around an unwieldy and repetitive Ping-Pong structure of shifting back and forth between the two characters...However, 'War Paint' still has a lot going for it, including self-empowered protagonists, high-powered performances, well-crafted period-style songs, the classy aura of old-school New York and the smooth direction of Michael Greif." Full Review

65
New York Magazine / Vulture

"Beguiling but frustrating...For all the intelligence, sophistication, and sheer talent involved — LuPone and Ebersole are in top form — 'War Paint' keeps falling between an older model of storytelling and a new one, never fully climbing its way out of the gap...The structure quickly becomes a bit monotonous...Why, onstage, despite a perfectly smooth staging from Michael Greif, should 'War Paint' feel so effortful, like getting through an overheavy meal?" Full Review

85
The Hollywood Reporter

"The marquee draw is the dynamite pairing of Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, Broadway's finest, in richly distinctive roles that play to their respective strengths...Their contrasting turns here are simply mesmerizing...Despite its relatively low-key dramatic engine, this is a smart, sophisticated exploration of two uncompromising...Some no doubt will find the show lacking in dramatic momentum or explosive conflicts. I found it thoroughly compelling and masterfully entertaining throughout." Full Review

60
New York Daily News

"LuPone’s performance is slathered in gusto. Ebersole’s turn is creamier than any emollient. They’re so good, you wish the show were better...The structure of the show doesn't help. Arden starts a song, only to have Rubinstein chime in to give her side of the same story — or vice versa...The songs are easy enough on the ears. But the score is less memorable for revealing bottled-up emotions than goop inside makeup containers." Full Review

35
Deadline

"The musical’s DOA...Somehow this all manages to be a huge bore though not for want of trying and effortful lung power from the leads in director Michael Greif’s high-voltage production. The score is as hard on the ear as the book is clunky and predictable...Working so hard, and so effectively, to establish equivalency in the stories of these two phenomenally successful women in the end drains 'War Paint' of any drama." Full Review

70
CurtainUp

"Ebersole and LuPone do manage to rise above the less than ideal material. They inhabit their characters fully and sing so beautifully that unmemorable music seems better than it is...The show overall does have a good deal to recommend it: Director Michael Greif does his utmost to unify the side by side stories...And choreographer Christopher Gattelli takes advantage of the ensemble's versatility to create some lively production numbers." Full Review

75
Chicago Tribune

"Very classy and elegant new Broadway musical...Deceptively complex direction of Michael Greif...The show ultimately demurs when it comes to holding the great titans of makeup, and the men who surrounded them, to moral account. And that is what might just have made 'War Paint' a truly great musical, instead of a highly entertaining and provocative one...A tad too admiring of its subjects for its own good." Full Review

80
Newsday

"Hearing these extraordinary women at the top of their game in duets that contrast and blend and play off one another’s unique theatrical instincts is a thrill, and would be even without a chic and thoughtful show around them. 'War Paint' may not be one of the great musicals, but it is an enormously satisfying one...The show, sleekly and compassionately directed by Michael Greif, looks at American women from 1934 to 1964 through a new lens." Full Review

80
The Wrap

"How rare it is to see two great female performances in one season, much less one musical. The 'War Paint' book is also a marvel...Director Michael Greif not only juggles with aplomb these four lead characters and a featured one, but the Depression, World War II, the advent of TV, and the counterculture. It’s quite a story, and one well told...These songwriters are good at the reflective...If only they could be a little brassier now and then." Full Review

90
TheaterScene.net

"A show with one musical theater legend is rare these days but with both Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole you are offered two of the great ladies of the American musical on the same stage at the top of their form. Sophisticated, chic and elegant, 'War Paint' is an absorbing and magnificent story of two remarkable women who climbed their way to the top of their profession only to find that there were still things they could not accomplish." Full Review

82
Front Mezz Junkies

"Both of these stars are winning a different type of theatrical war than the one being chronicled in this touching big-number filled musical…‘War Paint’ fails to rise above the pedestrian, doing justice to this interesting story, but unable to rise the whole piece as high as some of the notes being sung…Every moment sounds lovely and we are totally engaged, but the songs don’t vary enough from each other overall…Just try to defy these two Tony winning stars their stupendous power." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
77
Avg Score

77
Enchanting, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if You're a fan of Lupone and/or Ebersole; their performances and chemistry are the show's greatest strengths

Don't see it if You're expecting a knock out score; while the book is strong, the music, especially in this season, isn't the best you'll hear

92
Delightful, Enchanting, Must see, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you enjoy watching two legendary divas take the stage and sing their hearts out. Costumes, staging and supporting roles were great, too.

Don't see it if you don't like to hear divas sing.

Also This show was fabulous from start to finish. It would have gotten 100%... Read more Read less

65
Funny, Great singing, Fluffy, Lackluster ensemble

See it if you want to see 2 legends battle it out. They are pretty much the only reason to see this show.

Don't see it if you want big show numbers or a deep, meaningful story. It is pretty lacking in that sense.

Also This show is pretty much nothing without its stars. I bet the show wou... Read more Read less

72
Clever, Disappointing, Entertaining, Great singing, Great staging

See it if you absolutely love the divas of the musical stage. A lot of detail was lost in the heavy accent Ms. Lupone used for her character.

Don't see it if you are not a musical fan, and don't care about the divas. This was just another musical which relied on big stars to sell tickets.

Also I expected more. While the singing was excellent, much of the story li... Read more Read less

75
Relevant, Disappointing, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you love Patti and Christine! They had great stage chemistry and brought down the house (with what I'd consider not the best material).

Don't see it if you want a clear cut perfect show - Patti's accent was difficult to understand and it drags from time to time.

Also It was great to see these two legends together but I wish they had bet... Read more Read less

83
Absorbing, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if savor 2 grand dames of the stage portraying 2 grand dames of the fashion industry.Wonderful staging and costumes.Great portrayals.

Don't see it if you have trouble understanding accents. I had real trouble with Lupone's accent in the first act. Chrisine was very easy to understand.

89
Delightful, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if War paint is a great showcase for Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole. Fun and upbeat production!

Don't see it if If you prefer dramas.

75
Clever, Relevant, Indulgent, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if You want to see 2 women at the top of their games. They're both extraordinary.

Don't see it if The songs aren't the greatest and the show is basically an operetta.

80
Great acting, Great singing

See it if great show about two powerful,resourceful, brilliant women,starring two powerful, brilliant performers: Lupone and Ebersole.Top-notch cast!

Don't see it if you are a male chauvinist.

Also Patti Lupone is one of the greatest performers on Broadway.She is irre... Read more Read less

65
Ambitious, Disappointing, Overrated, Great singing, Great staging

See it if You want to see Lupone and Ebersole be awesome. The singing is great, as is the staging and acting.

Don't see it if A strong story is a requirement to your theater. It felt like it dragged, and didn't really go anywhere. Also, I don't care about makeup.

68
Disappointing, Entertaining, Great singing, Fluffy

See it if You want to see two of our major stars in a show (sort of) together

Don't see it if You want someone to have actually written that show before you go to it

Also Some kind of attempt at a story would have been nice. I mean, literall... Read more Read less

85
Funny, Great acting, Entertaining, Great singing, Great set

See it if if you are a fan of Patti Lupone, Christine Ebersole, Elizabeth Arden or Helena Rubinstein

Don't see it if you are not a fan of any of the above.

79
Just ok, with good voices

See it if you enjoy LuPone &/or Ebersole. No other reason to see it. Ebersole's voice is prettier & easier on the ear.

Don't see it if LuPone's method singing continues to include an unintelligible Eastern European accent. Missed at least half of whatever she was singing.

70
Great acting, Banal, Disappointing, Great singing, Fluffy

See it if You want to see two of the all-time great musical actresses assail the stage with brilliance in a slick, enjoyable production.

Don't see it if You're looking for dramatic tension or a concept that truly works. That the two main characters don't interact robs it of deep interest.

76
Funny, Dated, Great singing, Fluffy, Great set

See it if you LOVE Patti Lupone

Don't see it if a mediocre musical isn't worth sitting through regardless of who's in it

73
Ambitious, Disappointing, Excruciating, Overrated, Great singing

See it if Ebersole and LuPone elevate every song and scene from awful and decent to good and great; final scene with both stars is best scene so stay

Don't see it if heavy handed with forgettable music; plot cattiness is often humorous (thank god) may not meet cast quality expectations

82
Entertaining, Wonderful singing, Slightly-dated, Fluffy and indulgent, Semi-underwhelming

See it if dying to see Patti Lupone steal a show and Christine Ebersole not doing poorly, either. This is a women's club: many issues still resonate.

Don't see it if seeking modern, fresh, edgy work. The rivalry between the two cosmetic juggernauts is rooted in history in a way that often feels dated.

Also Lupone and Ebersole make this show, and there is plenty of pluck, sass... Read more Read less

84
Funny, Absorbing, Relevant, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if Lupone and Ebersole thrill you, and if you are interested in powerful, pioneering women execs who happen to be in the cosmetics industry. Go

Don't see it if You are impatient with a weak book, Lupone's over the top performance style, tepid music and don't feel that fashion/makeup are important

Also I was surprised at how absorbing this show was for me, and was fascina... Read more Read less

75
Entertaining, Great costumes, Great singing

See it if It's worth it to hear Christine and Patti alone. The costumes are great and the quick changes amazing.

Don't see it if You have no interest in cosmetics or you want a plot with more depth.

90
Funny, Great acting, Great singing, Fluffy

See it if The costumes were beautiful, but the main drags are Patti lupone and Christine Ebersole, who makes the lame subject matter very interesting.

Don't see it if Cosmetics do not interest you.

75
Enchanting, Epic, Cliched, Slow, Great singing

See it if Patti LuPone. Christine Ebersole. You like makeup and want to see a new story. Enjoy traditional musicals.

Don't see it if Don't know who Patti LuPone or Christine Ebersole are. Need a fast-paced musical (Act 2 is painfully slow).

57
Disappointing, Great singing, Fluffy

See it if You're gaga over Patti or Christine

Don't see it if You are looking for something really gripping and interesting

75
Epic, Disappointing, Slow, Dated, Great singing

See it if You love the two stars, or would like to see a female-empowerment musical for adults (that isn't Wicked).

Don't see it if You think this will be like a musical version of "Feud". It's not campy, and the story and music never truly excite.

85
Funny, Great acting, Entertaining, Great singing, Fluffy

See it if You love either Patti or Christine. Flawless performances. Patti is funnier but Christine really acts the role. Two great star turns.

Don't see it if You don't like either of them, aren't interested in the cosmetics history, ow want a strong cohesive book.

77
Absorbing, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you like Patti and/or Christine. Beautiful staging and costumes.

Don't see it if you want something modern