Goodman Theater until August 21, 2016
Tickets range from $44 to 182
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War Paint is a story about high-powered, pioneering women, based on the book of the same name by Dough Wright. The world premier theatrical production stars double Tony Award winners Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole. Both are brilliant in their parts. LuPone plays Helene Rubinstein and Ebersole is Elizabeth Arden. Their beautiful voices perfect the musical.

They gave birth to the industry of cosmetics with different approaches. Elizabeth Arden’s pink jar packaged products and the creator of the luxury spa at the Red Door believed in packaging – hope in a jar. Her branding was built on the color of pink. Rubinstein took a scientific approach and is the creator of day and night creams, for beautiful skin. She considered beauty to be a science.

This is a story with multiple messages about marketing. The Jewish ladies were enemies for over 50 years and finally met at the end of their careers, as they were both being honored by an organization that had rejected them. They had much in common but were staunch rivals throughout their careers. They experienced great success, ethnic discrimination, and sexism and then there were the issue of men. You must think, what if they would have collaborated.

Rubinstein’s story is a success story of so many immigrants, coming to America seeking opportunity and fortune. With Rubinstein her product was specially made skin creams. She became a great art collector and when her offer was turned down to buy a triplex in one of New York’s finest neighborhoods , because she was Jewish, she bought the whole building, never to be turned down again.


The musical is filled with business lessons. As both women built their enterprises they shut out opportunity. Mrs. Arden was married, and her husband was her marketing genius. She refused to give him the title of Vice President. He felt rejected. They divorced and interestingly he joined the Rubinstein team, where he was better rewarded.
Rubinstein’s top male marketer left her to work for Arden. They switched men, they switched marketers, but they really switched the main men in their lives.

There are two major business lessons to be learned from the pioneering ladies, as new products presented themselves. Mr. Revson approached both companies with a new product and a new way of selling. Both refused his involvement. He went on to become Revlon and made a fortune with mass selling strategies. Mr. Paley of CBS approached both women with the innovation of advertising on television . They both rejected the idea and the new Revlon company rode TV marketing to the top with women of glamour as he presented matching lipstick and finger nail polish, a new cosmetic formula.

Both women were forces to be reckoned with as they were actually creating a culture of beauty, to change the concept of American beauty with skin care products. These were proper, highbrow, high society ladies. They mastered the image of what it was to be a “lady.”

This is a story to be told to professional women to learn what success might look like to include its sacrifices. This is a story about success with its many challenges. This is a story looking behind the scenes of beauty. This is a story that makes you understand today better, beauty creams and all.

Hermene Hartman

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