Hear Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole In a 'War Paint' Duet: Exclusive

Patti LuPone, Christine Ebersole and company in "WAR PAINT".
Joan Marcus

Patti LuPone, Christine Ebersole and company in "WAR PAINT".

“Writing a show about two characters who don’t meet was the challenge of War Paint,” says Michael Korie, the lyricist of the new Broadway musical which recently garnered Tony nominations for leading ladies -- and Broadway royalty -- Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole.

LuPone and Ebersole play, respectively, cosmetics titans Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden, who allegedly never met despite a bitter business rivalry and similar status as pioneering women in business. To solve that conundrum, Korie and composer Scott Frankel wrote three duets for Rubenstein and Arden, "sung in separate spaces, where the trials and tribulations of life find them in similar circumstances.” One of those duets, premiered here, is “If I'd Been A Man.”

The song arrives midway through the first act, when, as Frankel explains, “both women have suffered a betrayal by a man: Arden by her husband, Rubinstein by her right-hand PR man. [They share] a uniting thought: Would they suffer the indignities in juggling their personal/business lives if they were men?”

While LuPone is known for her “thrilling, rich full-throttle belt,” Frankel continues, Ebersole is famed for her “ethereal, supple, silvery soprano,” and this duet -- in which the women sing in thirds, with LuPone on the lower line and Ebersole on the upper -- allowed the composers the perfect opportunity to showcase LuPone's and Ebersole's unique vocal timbres, along with their characters’ distinct ways of speaking. 

“Patti and Christine are our foremost singing actresses,” Frankel says, and as such they approached their recording sessions for the War Paint original cast recording with great economy. He explains that they chose the order of recording according to “songs they want to warm up on and lay down efficiently, and which songs they want to conserve their voices for in order to try multiple takes until it is perfect." 

For “If I'd Been a Man,” “they’d come into the control room to hear playback of the takes and find a phrase or two they thought they could improve on.” In the process, Korie reveals, the ladies revealed another superhuman ability in their arsenal of talents. “Unlike everyone else who came in to hear playbacks,” he says, “they did not ever take one of the ubiquitous donuts always found in the control room.”

The treats’ sugary icing and fillings, as it turns out, “do no favors to the voice,” Korie says. “I believe I might have seen one or even both of them contemplate the box of donuts... and then do the right thing.”

Billboard debuts the recording of "If I'd Been A Man" below. The War Paint original cast recording will be released on Ghostlight Records May 26 and War Paint is currently running at the Nederlander Theatre.

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