Fringe Review: ‘Madame: Helena Rubinstein in America’

Genevieve James as Madame Helena Rubinstein.

A musical about the woman who revolutionized the cosmetic beauty industry sounds like a good idea. Madame: Helena Rubinstein in America succeeds in a number of ways.

Composer/co- Lyricist/ Director Don Woodward has written an interesting score (accompanied by Amy Conley) which features full cast songs like “Fifth Avenue” and a lovely duet for Helena and her husband Titus called “Not Meant To End This Way.” Jo Denver’s book and lyrics are intelligently written and tell the story of how Helena rose to fame while being in direct competition with another beauty mogul Elizabeth Arden. It also focuses on how her marriage to Titus suffered due to her drive to become number one.

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While I liked Genevieve James portrayal of Helena, I found her singing to be a bit pitchy at times. Stephanie Garcia as Elizabeth Arden turns in a fine performance and Jen Bevan as a lady of the night named Gloria gives a standout performance with a dandy little song called “Want, Need Aaah!” Richard Owens as Titus turned in a solid performance, both vocally and acting-wise.

 …intelligently written

I must say that I did find the show over-choreographed in spots. It’s ok for the production numbers, but choreographer Walid Chaya has Helena and Titus moving all over the stage during their pivotal duet. In a moment like that, I would have preferred to have the song speak for itself.

Overall, I recommend you see this show. It offers some insight into how Helena Rubinstein became an industry giant and showcases a very talented writing team and some talented actors as well.

Running Time: 55 minutes.

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About Elliot Lanes

Elliot Lanes has been a professional stage manager/sound designer/board op for over 20 years. After relocating to Washington, DC from the New York City area and marrying the girl of his dreams Jennifer Perry, he has been privileged to work on productions at Theatre J, Synetic, Prince George's Community College and Studio Theater to name a few. He has contributed designs for many shows in the last three Capital Fringe Festivals, two of which garnered critical raves. He is also the creator of MD Theatre Guide's highly successful 'A Quick 5' column.