War Paint or War Horse?
As many of my readership know, one of my favorite topics to write about is Broadway poster art. I love an effective and efficient piece of graphic art that can entirely sum up a show in one memorable image. The Broadway poster art is the image that invites the audience to buy tickets, and stays with them long after they part the theatre. That is why it is essential that Broadway poster art get it exactly right. It’s part of a show’s marketing and its legacy.
Occasionally, a show comes to Broadway with a poster design that misses the mark or that is so unappealing that you wonder “Is this the best that they could come up with?”. The recent artwork circulating for the much-anticipated musical War Paint is an example of this. The design features unflattering sketches of two of Broadway’s greatest talents: Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole. So unflattering, in fact, I had to ask “Is this War Paint or is it War Horse?”. The artwork is so bland that they defy what Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein, cosmetics pioneers, stood for. Where is the pizazz? Where is the magic? Where is the cleverness?
If you look at the art work for the production of War Paint at the Goodman Theatre, you will find a much more colorful design for the show. It is an impressionistic cityscape with the word “paint” in the title etched with an airbrush. It’s not the perfect artwork, but it certainly creates the mood and establishes the subject matter for what we will encounter in this musical. It piques your interest and makes you want to know more. It invites you in. It stays with you when you leave.
It seems to me that they are missing out on some golden opportunities to create some memorable artwork here. How about a poster design that shows the two stars’ visages reflecting in compact mirrors? How about the silhouette of an elegant-looking tube of lipstick with the title written across it in bright colors? With all of the possibilities of cosmetics paraphernalia to utilize as part of the design, how can the current design be the best that they could come up with?
War Paint tops my list of musicals to see in 2017. The composing team of Frankel and Korie (Grey Gardens, Happiness, Far from Heaven) bring fascinating voices to the people they write about and this new piece appears to have the same potential. The musical’s subject matter has the foundation of two fascinating, real-life women. The stars portraying them are a powerhouse combination of Tony-winning diva deliciousness and historically fascinating acting careers that make them an exciting, must-see pairing. This show is a big deal. I just hope that its marketing campaign will evolve to better capture what we are about to see.