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War Paint

Members say: Great singing, Entertaining, Great acting, Disappointing, Slow
76
Critics
68
72 reviews
Members
76
1269 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.

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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.

 


Cast & Creatives (29)



Reviews (1341)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
68
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

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
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

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
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
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

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
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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
76
Avg Score

65
Great acting, Disappointing, Slow, Great singing

See it if You love Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole as they are amazing. If you want to know more about two titans of the makeup industry.

Don't see it if You need a plot that moves along quickly or a classic. The leading ladies are spectacular but the show is a let down.

90
Great staging, Superb singing, Excellent ensemble, Era-stylized perfectly, Must-see (even w/weak book)

See it if you worship at the altar of either diva. Both icons slay & leave it all on the stage. Beautifully staged/choreographed w/great era costumes.

Don't see it if OMG just see the freaking show before it freaking closes! Book IS weak (although very relevant at times), but the show is very entertaining!

Also Seriously. Can't believe I waited so long. Putz.... Read more Read less

50
Ambitious, Great acting, Disappointing

See it if Three reasons to see this show are the two leading ladies and the best frocks on the Broadway. The rest of the show feels lost.

Don't see it if The songs are forgettable. The story feels familiar and, yet, not exciting. Patti's range is different than Christine's, hence a few duets.

68
Great cast, Gorgeous sets, lights & costumes, So-so book

See it if if you want to see the best of Broadway: Patti Lupone & Christine Ebersole. Also interesting history of cosmetics industry.

Don't see it if you want to know how they got started. The play opens with both women head of their cosmetic empires. Book-wise there's no place to go;

Also no reason to care. What did these women have to overcome to control co... Read more Read less

81
Don't miss the two divas together

See it if I waited until it was almost closed, but am I glad I saw War Paint. Their voices are both splendid but very different.

Don't see it if Both have charisma for days The same creative team as Grey Gardens, but the score and story are not as strong. A master class in stardom,

Also Sub-plot of old-style homophobia made me snicker. I once stayed in Eli... Read more Read less

92
Absorbing, Delightful, Great acting, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if You like a good musical with many great stars. Patti Lupone and her accent was fantastic. Christine Ebersole also great. Very well done.

Don't see it if You are not into musicals

90
Funny, Clever, Great acting, Great singing, Great staging

See it if you think you know fashion history

Don't see it if you want some action

66
Must see, Indulgent, Slow, Great singing, Fluffy

See it if just for Patti and Christine. The show itself is meh. They are fantastic

Don't see it if You want a great overall show

70
Great acting, Overrated, Great singing, Fluffy

See it if You love Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole.

Don't see it if You have high expectations for a show. While Ms. Lupone & Ms. Ebersole are good, the musical as a whole is just ok... fluffy & indulgent.

75
Funny, Romantic, Great singing, Great staging, Fluffy

See it if You enjoy star performances by stellar actresses and beautiful, grand-scale design of costumes and sets.

Don't see it if You prefer a deeper dive into themes of female success, beauty and make-up, cattiness and competition.

70
Great acting, Banal, Disappointing, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you want to experience two fabulous divas and can live with a less than great book

Don't see it if if you are not a fan of Patti or Christine

80
Ambitious, Delightful, Enchanting, Great singing, Great staging

See it if Are interested in the competition between two makeup moguls, for the singing and two great actresses, the costumes and set alone!

Don't see it if You need to understand what Patti is saying- the accent made it difficult, don't like musicals, are mysonistic.

Also The costumes and the set were beautiful. The singing also beautiful an... Read more Read less

100
Funny, Absorbing, Delightful, Exquisite, Great acting

See it if You want to see two legends on stage

Don't see it if You don't like musicals

59
Disappointing, Great singing, Great staging, Undramatic, Lipstick-on-a-pig

See it if you want to see Patti & Christine, still at the top of their game.

Don't see it if you expect any dramatic arc, compelling narrative or campy fun. There's no story, so there was no reason for this musical to be written.

Also This show has a lot of the right elements to have been a great musical... Read more Read less

86
Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining, Perfect star(s) vehicle

See it if an thoroughly entertaining star driven musical full of everything you would want while learning some history. LuPone & Ebersole = Heaven

Don't see it if you expect this show to be perfect. Oh who cares, it's just good fun and GOOOOO!

78
Must see, Slow, Great singing

See it if PATTI LUPONE! Go for Patti (and Christine) but Patti is a beast, sounds great, looks great. She’s everything.

Don't see it if You want a compelling music, great music. The show is a vehicle for these star women. They’re the reason to see them.

90
Ambitious, Intelligent, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you want to see the phenomenal two leading ladies belting their hearts out; - don't miss this opportunity to see them

Don't see it if you want fast-paced action at every turn, but again, DON'T MISS THIS CAST.

66
Indulgent, Disappointing, Entertaining, Great singing, Fluffy

See it if you want to see Christine and/or Patti onstage.

Don't see it if you are looking for an even moderately well-written show.

65
2 great actresses in a weak vehicle

See it if you want 2 see the 2 stars or lovely costumes

Don't see it if you want music & lyrics that last

76
Delightful, Disappointing

See it if you love Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole. A great moment to capture them both onstage at the same time. Wonderful costumes.

Don't see it if you can't sit through a show with little conflict.

75
Great acting, Intelligent, Disappointing, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if You want to see the Two Ladies billed above the title be absolutely fantastic because the were great. You like strong female characters

Don't see it if You want to leave humming the score or want strong material. This is a performance showcase and the women really work hard to elevate.

75
Ok

See it if Not bad, not great. Great staging, costumes, lighting. Interesting story in a well paced show.

Don't see it if you want a score with memorable numbers. The songs could have easily just been dialog. Some of the singing is hard to understand.

70
Indulgent, Slow, Great costumes, Great singing, Patti lupone and christine ebersole are phenomenal

See it if Want to see powerhouse performances by 2 of the best actresses in Broadway history. They were incredible individually and better together.

Don't see it if You are looking for a memorable score or big production numbers. The story was interesting enough, but dragged at times.

Also This show had all the elements of a spectacular production, and I can'... Read more Read less

75
Funny, Relevant, Great writing, Interesting, Great singing

See it if you want to see two magnificent performers in a well-written show; an example of a good book of a musical

Don't see it if you have no interest in the make-up industry and don't care about the leading ladies

85
Romantic, Slow, Great singing, Fluffy, Legendary

See it if you love Patti Lupone. A legendary diva.

Don't see it if you have other options and din't want to spend that money.

Also I had to see Patti Lupone. I saw must of Lupone's plays: Evita, Sweene... Read more Read less