By Dr. LARRY MYERS****Analagous to Dolly’s matchmaking prowess is this season’s Machiavellian make-up maneuvers and manipulations of Patti LuPone as Helena Rubenstein and Christine Ebersole as Elizabeth Arden in War Paint, and the Broadway cast recording is now available, released on Ghostlight Records (physical copies and downloads).
The rival purveyors of glamour have a rivalry with the ferocity of Mary Stuart and Elizabeth. The two Broadway divas deliver the campy, sassy and informed Michael Korie lyrics with an artistry equal to Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne when thy were paired. The two women and their supporting men seem to lunge at you, jumping off the CD like lively holograms.
The two glamour fascists are conjured in irresistible songs like “Behind the Red Door,” “Back on Top,” and “My American Moment.” The ensemble’s “Best Face Forward,” “Inside of the Jar,” and contributions to “Fire and Ice” are most significant. War Paint speaks to us like an LGBTQIA Burning Bush. (All letters are included, as there is something for everyone.)
Campy whimsy accompanies the plaintive recollection of the ladies’ real-life money issues, men troubles, and eventual dissolution of their empires. The solos of the two feisty rivals — LuPone’s “Forever Beautiful” and Ebersole’s “Pink” are top-notch entertainment. Douglas Sills and John Dossett’s “Dinosaurs” is delivered with
pizzazz. The men sail out the lyrics like the gals do— like musical grenades. One-liners are tossed back like bar shots during the evening.
Detractors have criticized this musical as lacking in dynamic structure. Why consider War Paint via traditional “rules” when you have LuPone and Ebersole? The checkmate of these two beauty entrepreneurs has an impact equal to the conventional crises and resolutions of the other contemporary musicals. The use of cosmetics in World War II is universalized into telling statements. Composer Scott Frankel‘s talent collages operetta sounds with Leonard Bernstein-esque stress. “If I’d Been a Man” is as powerful as La Cage aux Folles’s “I Am What I Am.” Bruce Coughlin brilliantly orchestrates the sassy, savvy score. A new musical of this caliber is a rarity and the cast CD is first rate!