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Broadway's Backstage Artistry: Exploring the Art of Theatrical Makeup and Costuming

Wicked Broadway Musical Group Discounts

Broadway is not confined to the performances we see on stage - a large part of its appeal comes from the unseen world of backstage artistry. Among the many elements that make a Broadway show special, theatrical makeup and costuming play an important role. Makeup artists and costume designers help actors breathe life into their roles, transforming them into characters from different eras, worlds, and cultures. Costumes, with their rich textures and colors, coupled with the transformative power of makeup, create a visual spectacle that guides the audience into the world of the show.


The role of makeup in theatre is multifaceted. It not only enhances an actor's features to ensure they are visible from the back row, it can also morph them into fantastical beings. Whether it's creating the sunken eyes and hollowed cheeks of a tragic hero or the intricate and vibrant markings of a Lion King character, the power of theatrical makeup lies in its ability to transform. The makeup artist, armed with their brushes, sponges, and color palettes, is a vital collaborator in this process, helping to bring the director's vision to life one brushstroke at a time.


The makeup in the Broadway hit Wicked showcases another feat of theatrical artistry. Designed by Joe Dulude II, the visual transformation of the actors, particularly Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, is breathtaking. Elphaba's signature green skin is achieved using Mac Chromacake foundation and purple blush. The makeup for Glinda, the Good Witch, is in stark contrast - all pinks and peaches, with a sparkle befitting her bubbly character. The ensemble also boasts an array of fantasy-inspired designs, with each character having a unique look.


As we transition from the world of theatrical makeup to costume design, we find another layer of craft that contributes significantly to the quality of Broadway shows. A well-designed costume can transport us to the Elizabethan era, a futuristic dystopia, or an out-of-this-world kingdom. It helps establish the time period,  geographical location, and socio-economic status of the characters. The costumes' colors, textures, and styles can provide insights into a character's personality, profession, or state of mind.

SIX Broadway Musical Group Sales Discounts

A stunning example of costume design on Broadway can be currently seen in the hit musical SIX. In this high-energy production, the six wives of Henry VIII are dressed in a unique blend of historical and modern elements. Each queen's costume is designed to reflect her historical persona while also incorporating contemporary touches - a nod to the show's modern, pop concert format. Catherine of Aragon, the first queen, is dressed in a gold-embellished costume that evokes the splendor of the Tudor court. In contrast, Anne Boleyn's bright green costume, adorned with a B necklace, reflects her flirtatious and rebellious nature. Jane Seymour's costume in black and white captures her gentle, loving character, while Anna of Cleves, represented as a fiery, independent queen, is dressed in a beautiful red costume with holographic elements, symbolizing her wealth and independence. Katherine Howard's costume is a vibrant pink number adorned with plenty of sparkle. This choice cleverly mirrors her historically recorded personality as the young, vivacious, and somewhat naive wife of Henry VIII. On the other hand, Catherine Parr's costume is an ensemble of royal blue and gold; it is both regal and modern, embodying Parr's historical status as a highly educated and independent woman. The costumes, created by Gabriella Slade, while reflecting the queen's historical personas, also incorporate modern elements like sequins and latex, signaling their strong, modern attitudes.


Stepping into the dazzling world of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, we are met with an array of colors, textures, and styles. The costumes in this show play a role in setting the tone and enhancing the show's larger-than-life aura. Satine, the star courtesan, dons various costumes that reflect her status as the 'sparkling diamond.' From her show-stopping red corseted dress to the shimmering black lingerie, each of Satine's costumes is well thought-out. Christian, the penniless writer, is dressed in simpler attire, reflecting his humble background. Meanwhile, the ensemble's costumes are a mix of colors, feathers, sequins, and lace, capturing the spirit of the Moulin Rouge. Although closer to fantasy than historical accuracy, these extravagant costumes created by Catherine Zuber transport the audience to the hedonistic world of 19th-century Paris.


In the stage adaptation of Water for Elephants, costuming is used to transform actors into an array of circus performers. The costume design, created by David Israel Reynoso, transports the audience to the 1930s circus world. The ringleader's traditional red coat adorned with golden accents, the shimmering sequins of the trapeze artist's outfit, and the laborers' rustic, worn-out clothes all contribute to the visual storytelling. Each costume is not only a reflection of the period but also of the character's individual journey.

MJ Michael Jackson Broadway Group Sales

In MJ the Musical costumes are created by designer Paul Tazewell, known for his work on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton and In the Heights. Tazewell's costuming for MJ the Musical represents every era of Michael Jackson's career. Fans will recognize the iconic cream "Smooth Criminal" jacket and fedora, the red "Thriller" jacket, and the unmistakable "Beat It" jacket. Not to be overlooked, the black shimmery "Billie Jean" jacket is perfectly paired with the legendary white glove and black fedora. Tazewell also vividly brings to life the military jackets that Michael Jackson was known for donning in the 1980s and 1990s. Tazewell balances authenticity with artistic interpretation, providing audiences with a visually stunning and accurate representation of Michael Jackson’s unique style.


Each Broadway production, with its take on makeup and costuming, depicts that these art forms are much more than just superficial embellishments. These crafts are vital storytelling tools that enhance the narrative, evoke emotions, and draw the audience into the world of the show. The art of theatrical makeup and costuming is a fascinating realm within the theatre world, where creativity meets technique and imagination meets craft.


The next time you find yourself enjoying a Broadway show, take a moment to appreciate these elements. Look beyond the performances and the stories, and you'll see a world of color, texture, and detail that adds depth to the theatrical experience. Remember, every makeup brushstroke, every thread of costume, is a silent storyteller, bringing Broadway's stories to life.


added a paragraph about MJ's costumes, as requested