How did you come to be involved as the makeup designer for Doctor Zhivago on Broadway?
My good friend Chuck LaPointe, the show’s wig designer, referred me to the costume designer, Paul Tazewell. Chuck and I met 12 years ago when I was the makeup designer and he was the associate wig designer on Wicked.
What is your very first step in the design process?
The first step is to talk to the costume designer. She or he will give you information about the show: time period, theme, overall look and so on. Once you have read the script and know the story, the costume designer will usually go through the characters and send you costume sketches. My next step is my favorite step, which is research. I love to research. I will look up time period images or any kind of reference to the show that I can.
How many characters are you designing for the show?
There are 33 cast members in this production. I am not designing for the children in the show so that leaves me with 30. A couple of the cast members have very simple looks. However, the entire ensemble and some of the principals have to go from being beautiful, clean aristocrats to emaciated and dirty soldiers and peasants. In designing the makeup, I had to figure out how and where the actors could change, and how to show the progression of the Russian Revolution. When the Revolution first starts, people are excited for it and look normal. As the Revolution goes on and all of society is sharing equal amounts of rations, they become more and more emaciated and dirty. At the end of the show, everyone has to be back to looking clean again.
Are there any special makeup effects in the show?
There are many special effects in this show. We have prosthetic teeth on most of the ensemble so that when they become malnourished their teeth are discolored and haggard. We also have numerous blood effects in the show. Most of them are done by applying Cinema Secrets Blood Gel to a hand or a face. But we do have a prosthetic neckpiece that bleeds, as well as a big head wound and abdomen wound. My associate makeup designer, Brandalyn Fulton, works closely with me to design effective ways to make these quick and easy changes for the cast.
How closely do you work with the creative team and hair and costume designers during the design process?
As a makeup designer, you should work closely with most of the members of the creative team as well as the local team. It is important to be on the same page with the vision of the director and costume designer. It is their vision of the piece as a whole that you are executing. Wigs and makeup work closely together as wig color can drastically affect an actor’s skin tone. For example, we have one actress who is blonde in real life but is playing a role with a dark brown wig and her skin looks very pale against it. We have to darken her eyebrows and give her a little more color so she doesn’t look so pallid. By knowing the color of an actor’s wig it helps me decide what color to use in their eyebrows. I also work closely with the lighting designer. Sometimes the way she or he may light a scene can detract from the makeup or make it look pale or too dark. It’s important to be able to collaborate with the lighting designer(s) to achieve something that works for both visions. In Zhivago, we had to ask the lighting designer to change some lights in a couple of scenes as the blue lights were making all the blood look black on stage.
How does the design process differ when a show is based on a very well known book or movie?
I don’t think the design process differs that much unless you are trying to copy the exact movie design, which rarely happens. Usually the goal of a musical based on a movie or book is to create its own world within the story’s parameters.
Will the actors do their own makeup for the show or will there be a full time artist involved?
We do have a full-time makeup artist on the show. There are too many effects and people transitioning from one makeup to another to not have a makeup artist. With the prosthetics and the amount of blood in the show, there has to be someone there to take care of it all. But the makeup artist will not be doing the makeup on everyone. I have taught all of the actors how to do their own makeup, which can sometimes be a challenge, but with practice and time, it usually all works out.
How do you ensure continuity throughout a show’s run?
I will come in once or twice a year to check on a show and ensure that everyone is adhering to the design. Sometimes people will get bored with the same day in and day out and alter things. I like when actors put some of their own style in, as long as it keeps to the overall design concept.
What are some key products you are using on the show?
MAC is providing the makeup for the show. We have very specific lipstick and blush colors such as Dame Blush, Chicory Lip Pencil and Captive Lipstick. Most of our blood for onstage use is the Cinema Secrets Blood Gel. It is the perfect consistency and does not move once it is on, yet cleans up easily with Alcone Wipes. We are also using Red Drum Theatrical Blood to paint some of the prosthetics, along with Skin Illustrator Bloody Five Palette. For the pale effect of our emaciated look, we are using Prism Blush and Brun Eyeshadow from MAC for all of the contouring.
Words Michael DeVellis
Photos Kisha Williams and Joe Dulude ll