Album Review: War Paint (2017 Original Broadway Cast Recording)

In Albums, Broadway, Musicals, Opinion, Reviews by Ian FosterLeave a Comment

“She’s coming, she’s coming…she’s here!”

The rivalry between beauty moguls Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden has proven a rich one for theatrical exploitation, impressively so given that the pair never actually met. So though the UK got the play Madame Rubinstein and the US got the musical War Paint, both had to find their way into creating a narrative that somehow brings them together whilst respecting their individual strengths.

I’m not so sure John Misto’s play achieved that, despite the best efforts of Miriam Margoyles and Frances Barber but on the evidence of the cast recording, I think War Paint (currently running at the Nederlander), with book by Doug Wright, music by Scott Frankel, and lyrics by Michael Korie, with the mighty Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole at the helm gets a darned sight closer.

That it achieves by balancing the stories of each woman, drawing the parallels between their experiences and pulling them together just the moments of key emotional intensity. As one might expect from two titans of the American musical theatre, these duets are to die for – the ruefulness of ‘If I’d Been A Man’, the scorching Act 1 closer ‘Face to Face’ with those harmonies!, and the finale of ‘Beauty in the World’.

Frankel’s score is very much in the old school Broadway mold and is thus perfectly suited to the task at hand. These are bold brassy songs tailor-made for bold brassy performers and it shows – the contrasting but complementary 11 o’clock numbers (of course they get one each!) plus the finale creates one of the best final quarters of a show in recent memory. The heartbreaking intensity of Ebersole’s ‘Pink’, the wry observations of LuPone’s ‘Forever Beautiful’, this is a cracking record of what looks to be a cracking

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Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."
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Ian Foster on FacebookIan Foster on RssIan Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."

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