ON STAGE: SARAH CIMINO + MOULIN ROUGE

How did you come to work on Moulin Rouge?
I was brought on to the production by costume designer Cathy Zuber. Cathy’s assistant was familiar with my work with burlesque dance company, Company XIV, and I think they were interested in bringing that style and makeup aesthetic to this production. Burlesque is a genre I particularly love designing makeup for, and I’ve always sort of thought of XIV as a modern day Moulin Rouge. So I think it was a natural fit!

What was your design process like for the show?
I have sort of a two part process when I’m designing. I always start aesthetically with images and research. For any how I’m designing, I’ll spend a lot of time compiling and
sifting through and then condensing images and inspiration. For Moulin Rouge in particular, I looked to the Talouse-Lautrec paintings for mood and atmosphere. I always find amazing makeup inspiration from vintage magazine covers, and from illustrators like Rolf Armstrong and Charlie Gesmar. Their makeup renderings are gorgeous.

Once I’ve immersed myself in the world aesthetically and sort of let myself dream a bit, then I move on to the second phase of the design process, which is the practical design
work. Establishing very specifically what the looks are, how to they relate to the rest of the design elements, and most importantly how they are achieved. The performers do their own makeup for the show, and this is definitely a major consideration in creating the final makeup design. I really work to figure out how to streamline the looks and the steps to make sure the makeup is achievable, while still having a strong visual impact.

Are there any specific challenges with designing a showthat has so much history in  other mediums? 
It was all a pleasure really! I absolutely love the movie, and this is also one of my very favorite eras of history, art and theatre. There was so much to draw inspiration from, it was really kind of a makeup dream come true.

How closely did you work with hair and costume designers when creating the makeup design?
We worked very closely together. The costume renderings are really the starting place, and I definitely consider the look and the story of the clothes, as well as the color, mood and style of both the costumes and hair. All of our elements need to be cohesive and in support of one another.

How many different looks are in the show?
Everyone wears makeup in the show, even the male ensemble, but because there are so many very quick costume and wig changes throughout the show, and it is
also a very physically demanding show. I wanted to simplify the makeup tracks and come up with one set makeup look for each performer that could work throughout the show without having to make changes. I think the only exception is for the clown, who appears only in preshow.

How many makeup artists work regularly on the show?
All the performers do their own makeup for the show! Its not very common that you get a full-time makeup position on a theatrical production.

How long does it take to teach the actors their makeup?
I’ll do a preliminary fitting with each performer, and then put together a kit and a face chart for them. Then we will have a 30 minute makeup session together so they can learn the looks and practice the steps. Throughout the tech process I’ll work with the performers to adjust colors of application as needed.

How do you ensure continuity over time?
I’m really lucky to have a member of the hair team, Caitlin Maxwell, who also supervises the makeup, and she does an incredible job keeping an eye on everyone, fielding
questions or issues that arise, and making sure makeup is always in stock. She and I are in frequent communication. And I’ll come in when a new cast member is added to set nd teach them their makeup plot.

What are some of your must-have products for the project?
I love any product that adds dimension to the skin. MAC sponsors the show, and they have some incredible products like Strobe Cream and Cream Colour Base that give a really beautiful, soft glow and finish to the skin. I also love MAC Shivering White Studio Fix powder to create a theatrical texture and finish without looking or feeling too heavy.

What was the best part of working on Moulin Rouge?
The movie was a really significant experience and influence for me, and I think for so many others as well, and so it’s been pretty special to be a small part of bringing that spectacular world and story that Baz Luhrmann gifted us with to the stage. Plus walking into the theatre and seeing that set every day, it will never cease to take my breath away.

Words Michael DeVellis
Photos Matthew Murphy