Ends Sep 03

War Paint

Members say: Great singing, Entertaining, Great acting, Disappointing, Slow
61 reviews
438 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 (499)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

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

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


"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


“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


“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


"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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


"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


"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


"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

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

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


"A smart portrayal of the obstacles faced by a pair of America's earliest female entrepreneurs...Benefits foremost from the remarkable symmetry between its leads...The score is tuneful and catchy, winding up to a pair of bittersweet releases for the stars...Good God, the women’s voices are in astounding condition...Their meeting is something of a misty-eyed anticlimax...'War Paint,' mostly, is bliss and makeup." Full Review

Theater News Online

"Ironically, for a musical about two great titans of the cosmetics industry, Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden, 'War Paint' is rarely more than skin deep. Doug Wright’s book delivers surprisingly superficial portraits of these two fierce rivals...The show ultimately isn’t all that enlightening...'War Paint' is redeemed by its packaging, specifically the powerhouse team of Tony Award winners Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole. Audiences will be mesmerized by these great stars." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

Ambitious, Great acting, Disappointing, Great singing, Overwrought

See it if You love Christine Ebersole and Patti LuPone.

Don't see it if Great performances, sets, and costumes won't make up for unmemorable songs or a weak script.

Ambitious, Great acting, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if enjoy new musicals with a great cast, Patti was out when I saw it but Donna Migliaccio was wonderful as Helena Rubinstein.

Don't see it if you are not interested in musicals or stories that portray strong business women.

Also Producers offered us to return to see the show when Patti LuPone is in... Read more Read less

Banal, Disappointing

See it if you're a super-fan of LuPone or Ebersole.

Don't see it if you fall asleep easily.

Disappointing, Great singing, Great staging

See it if You want to hear great singing from two of Broadway's best divas. Interesting story as well but nothing terribly exciting.

Don't see it if You aren't interested in singing makeup experts.

Epic, Great writing, Entertaining, Gay, Very gay

See it if the Wicked feud-ish plot excites you and the two leading ladies are the reason you love Theater

Don't see it if you cant stand Patti's obnoxious beltings, cause there are a lot of them and they're wonderful

Indulgent, Disappointing, Cliched, Slow, Fluffy

See it if and only if you want to see Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole. Orchestration was nice. Songs were totally forgettable.

Don't see it if you hate watching tennis - because that's what this is... Patti sings a song, then Christine sings a song, repeat, repeat, duet... boring

Entertaining, Wonderful costumes, Amazing singing, Nice sets, Interesting idea

See it if you love musicals with big numbers that highlight Patti and Christine. They overshadow the plot of the show-but they're amazing. fun history

Don't see it if You do not like shows with parallel stories where the two leads do not interact till the end - or fake heavy accents.


See it if you like stories of strong women, you want to see two Broadway icons on stage together.

Don't see it if you're not interested in the history of makeup and fashion.

Also I've always found Patti LuPone to be a bit hard to understand and the ... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Quirky, Disappointing, Great singing, Great staging

See it if you love, love, love Patti and Christine, they shine! As do John Dosset and Douglas Sills.

Don't see it if you like a well scripted book that actually has the energy of a "war"

Funny, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if You like LuPone or Ebersole. They make the show worth seeing

Don't see it if You need substance

Funny, Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Entertaining

See it if You want to laugh and learn a little bit of Latin history.

Don't see it if No reason not to see it

Interesting, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you are interested in stories about women in power or about cosmetic companies growth and competition.

Don't see it if Elizabeth Arden & Elene Rubinstine's stories do not interest or you are not interested in women power struggles.

Thought-provoking, Must see, Entertaining, Great singing, Great staging

See it if You want to see Patti Lupone & Christine Ebersole at their finest. The older they get the better they get. A must see!

Don't see it if N/A

Great acting, Disappointing, Overrated, Great singing

See it if You want to see Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole. The show Missed its opportunity to explore these pioneering business women's worlds.

Don't see it if The music is forgettable and the story is uneven. No other characters match the leads - very lopsided. A shame, theres a great story in here

Great acting, Disappointing, Slow, Great singing, Boring songs

See it if You want a chance to see two of the greatest stage actresses of all time strutting their stuff.

Don't see it if You want to see a memorable musical with good songs.

Dated, Great singing, Two great divas on one stage (why doesn't this happen more often on bdwy?), Definitely a good play to bring your rich granny to, as for kids? fuhgeddaboudit!!, Not so much a play as a biographical work of art (maybe they'll revive it in a museum for millenials of the future??

See it if Patti Lupone doesn't disappoint tho her Polish accent reduces dialogue to key words only. Christine Ebersole matches her note-4-note in Eng.

Don't see it if Don't see if U were born after 1999, even older folks will be googling for references to the $64,000 question, Rubenstein, & Arden lawsuits.

Ambitious, Disappointing, Cliched, Two wonderful star perfs.!

See it if u love the stars -- and who doesn't? -- and the production is 1st class...but the material isn't as good as it should be or needs to be.

Don't see it if u don't want to pay top dollar for a mediocre show. It's one of those vehicles which has to be seen for the stars and the camp potential.C-

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Riveting, Enthralling, Gorgeous costumes!

See it if You have any interest is cosmetics or female empire builders. This is a glam piece, about glam women who created yet more glam--lush!

Don't see it if You don't want a show heavily weighted to the female perspective.

Also Expecting not to like this, imagine my surprise when I couldn't get en... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Great acting, Great writing, Disappointing, Great singing

See it if need to see Lupone and Ebersole sing at their best! Strong story and excellent work by the director

Don't see it if you have little interest in the world of make up. Score not one of Frankel/Korie's best.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great singing

See it if you love powerhouse Broadway legends at their finest. Patti unexpectedly hilarious and Christine is perfect. Songstresses do not disappoint.

Don't see it if you want big dance numbers and upbeat catchy tunes. But story is absorbing and set is beautiful, to go along with fantastic talent! Loved it

Overrated, Slow, Great singing

See it if you like Christine Ebersole. I think she will take the Tony. And if you like great costumes.

Don't see it if are looking for a great book, lyrics or music. And don't, if you think you will understand Ms. LuPone's lyrics.... Mush Mouth, as always.

Clever, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if Two Broadway divas. Interesting story.

Don't see it if Two Broadway divas.

Resonant, Great singing, Great staging, Gorgeous costumes, Mediocre score

See it if You love Lupone and Ebersole. Interesting story of 2 strong powerful women for their time. Great staging given it's two parallel stories.

Don't see it if you want brilliant memorable music. Some of the songs drag.

Great acting, Slow, Dated, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you want to see two incredible women play two incredible women

Don't see it if you don't like slower shows

Indulgent, Banal, Disappointing, Great singing

See it if You want to see two great performers waste their talent.

Don't see it if You want musicals to have memorable songs