SYNOPSIS to War Paint the Musical

Broadway 2017

Act I

In 1935 Manhattan, several society women fret over the beauty ideals imposed on them by an unforgiving culture ("Best Face Forward"). A red door beckons them inside Elizabeth Arden's salon, where they are greeted by the Arden Girls and then by Elizabeth Arden herself ("Behind the Red Door"). Elizabeth's husband Tommy informs her that Helena Rubinstein plans to relaunch her company in America. Meanwhile, Helena arrives in Manhattan with her marketing director Harry Fleming and tells him that, while she's never met Elizabeth in person, she still plans to undo her ("Back on Top").

When Helena extols her latest face cream, an unfazed Elizabeth reassures Tommy that her iconic pink packaging will always trump pseudo-science. Harry urges Helena to market her cream as two separate products: one for the daytime and one for the nighttime. Helena consents, causing her sales to surpass Elizabeth's. Tommy urges Elizabeth to give him a promotion, but she is reluctant to do so because she believes it will make her look weak ("My Secret Weapon").

One night, while having dinner at the St. Regis Hotel, Elizabeth overhears Helena and Harry talking in an adjoining banquette. She learns that Helena longs for inclusion and that Harry feels undervalued ("My American Moment"). When Harry storms off after Helena mentions her knowing about his late-night trysts, Elizabeth gives him her card and invites him to a job interview.

Sometime later, Harry meets with Elizabeth and insists on working as her Vice President of Sales. Despite her initial reluctance, Elizabeth agrees to Harry's demands after Tommy walks in on them. Harry tells Helena about his new job and hits the town with an errant sailor while Tommy enjoys a night out with several of the Arden Girls. When Elizabeth catches him in the steam room with one of the girls, she promptly fires him and demands a divorce ("Step on Out"). Both women wonder what their lives would be had they been born male ("If I'd Been a Man").

While receiving a visit from nail polish salesman Charles Revson and his hand model Dorian Leigh, Elizabeth becomes intrigued with Dorian as she sees vestiges of her former self in the young up-and-comer ("Better Yourself"). Meanwhile, after being approached by Tommy about a job, Helena suggests that they work together to destroy Elizabeth's reputation by telling the FDA her skin cream doubles as horse salve ("Oh, That's Rich").

In 1939 Washington, D.C., Elizabeth appears at a Senate Committee hearing and offers a spirited defense to committee chairman Senator Royal Copeland. Fully aware that Tommy deliberately sold her out, Elizabeth reports Helena and forces her to testify before the committee. Following Helena's testimony, however, Copeland chides both women and claims their efforts to undermine one another only resulted in them incriminating themselves. Alone and bereft, the two wonder what it would be like if they actually met ("Face to Face").

Act II

As dismayed society ladies across Manhattan read the obligatory labels on Arden and Rubinstein products ("Inside of the Jar"), both women discover that war has broken out in Europe. Helena decides to buoy the spirits of women dedicated to the war effort with a brand new line while Elizabeth learns that the War Office is rationing silk and nylon and vows to do her part by inventing products without them ("Necessity Is the Mother of Invention").

In the post-war years, both women thrive financially and open salons in fashionable neighborhoods across America ("Best Face Forward [Reprise]"). One day, Helena is dining at the St. Regis when she learns she lost the bid on a Park Avenue penthouse because its Board of Directors finds her too Jewish. She overhears Elizabeth being rejected by the elite Mayfair Club because they find her too nouveau riche and gloats over her rival getting a much-needed taste of her own prejudice ("Now You Know").

In the 1950s, Tommy and Harry urge their respective employers to update their ad campaigns. When CBS President Bill Paley offers them sponsorship of the new game show "The $64,000 Question," both women refuse ("No Thank You"). During the show's premiere, they are shocked to learn that the sponsor is Charles Revson's newly formed company Revlon, which features Dorian Leigh in an ad campaign that celebrates sex appeal ("Fire and Ice").

Following the premiere, Helena fires Tommy for failing to alert her to the danger Revson now poses while Elizabeth fires Harry when he dares to say "I told you so." Both men commiserate at a bar, fully aware that their former employers are digging their own graves by failing to keep up with the times ("Dinosaurs").

Several years later, Elizabeth's Board of Directors pressures her to name a successor, prompting her to opine about how her entire resumé has been pared down to her patented color ("Pink"). Helena, meanwhile, is pressured by her attorneys to save on taxes by donating her large portrait collection. She refuses, insisting that, unlike the creams she spent her entire life championing, the paintings are what preserve her immortality ("Forever Beautiful").

At a gala organized by the American Women's Association, both women find themselves face to face after being accidentally invited to deliver the keynote address. The two argue until Helena notices that Elizabeth is wearing a shade of her lipstick. The two eventually realize that they had a shared goal that surpassed their bitter rivalry ("Beauty in the World"). As they are ushered to the stage, their handler Tulip thanks the former cosmetics moguls for "all you've done to – I mean for – women." Upon hearing this, both women pause and wonder who will defend beauty in an ever-coarsening world ("Finale").

Other Album Songs: War Paint the Musical Songs
SYNOPSIS to War Paint the Musical